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Television news crew assaulted by prison guard in Palmira, Valle del Cauca

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 4 November 2009, journalist Carlos Gutiérrez and camera operator Edison Ardín, who work for the "Uninoticias" programme broadcast by the Telepacífico regional television station, were assaulted by a guard from the National Prison Institute (INPEC) in the city of Palmira, department of Valle del Cauca.

The incident took place when traffic police officers were carrying out an operation to check whether drivers were following safety regulations. The officers signaled for an individual on a motorcycle to pull over because he was not wearing a helmet or reflective vest. When the motorcyclist failed to obey the officers, they began to pursue him and the news crew started filming the chase.

According to Guttiérrez, when the motorcyclist was finally stopped, the officers recognised him as Eddy Pineda Martínez, a guard at the Palmira prison. Upon realising that he was being filmed, Pineda threw himself at Ardín, hurled insults at him and struck his camera down. When Gutiérrez tried to intervene, the guard punched him in the face.

Coronel Luis Alberto Montenegro, the commander of the Valle del Cauca traffic police, confirmed to FLIP that the news team's assailant was an INPEC employee. The head of the INPEC's press department, Ana María Escobar, told FLIP that if the guard was in uniform at the time of the incident a complaint could be filed based on his role as a public official. Gutiérrez confirmed that Pineda was in uniform when he assaulted the news team and was wearing the INPEC insignia.

FLIP is concerned over this incident and others like it committed by public officials. The organisation calls on both the INPEC and the National Attorney General's Office to investigate Pineda's actions.

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