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Journalist assaulted by police officers in Barranquilla

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 26 October 2010, Fabio Ortiz Pabón, a journalist with the news programme "Habla Barranquilla", which is broadcast by Radio Tropical, was assaulted by police officers in Barranquilla.

At the time of the incident, Ortiz was covering a debate at the Atlántico.state assembly. After conducting several interviews, he tried to leave the venue but was approached by two police officers who were in charge of security. The police officers asked to search Ortiz because a cellular phone belonging to the head of the assembly's press division had gone missing. Ortiz refused but later relented after insisting that the search be carried out in the presence of the assembly secretary and several congressional representatives.

Ortiz was exiting the area after the search when he was struck by a plainclothes officer, who along with another officer tried to grab his briefcase. A brief struggle ensued and Ortiz was then hit by a congressional representative's bodyguard, who also pointed a gun at him. Ortiz called for help from his colleagues and the president of the assembly, Betty Echeverría de Daníes, intervened.

Echeverría de Daníes later told FLIP that the incident was not as the journalist had described it, and that after seeing Ortiz so confused by the situation, she invited all parties into her office to talk. She also said that the security officers treat everyone respectfully and that the search request was not directed specifically at the journalist but rather is part of the officers' duties since there had been previous thefts in the building.

FLIP condemns the attack on Ortiz and calls on the police to respect the work of journalists work and their right to free expression. FLIP also demands that the national police conduct an internal investigation and punish the officers who were responsible for the incident.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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