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Journalists assaulted, threatened in Pereira, Risaralda

(FLIP/IFEX) - On 13 December 2010, Carol Viviana Usquiano and Daniel Restrepo, journalists for the "Q' Hubo" y "La Tarde" daily newspapers respectively, were assaulted in the city of Pereira, located in the department of Risaralda.

The incident took place in the city's Justice Department headquarters after the journalists attended a hearing in the case of alleged criminal Jaime Alonso Gómez, who is being investigated for homicide, theft and illegal possession of weapons. While the journalists were coving the hearing and taking photographs Gómez's relatives began harassing them. One of the detainee's relatives told the journalists they did not want them to publish anything about the case. Usquiano told him that the hearing was a public event and they had a right to attend it, to which the man replied, "We can easily have your brains blown out."

Usquiano and Restrepo told a police officer what had happened. The officer advised them to leave by a door leading to a parking lot. Gómez's mother, two sisters and father then went to the parking lot and began yelling at the journalists. Usquiano told FLIP that Gómez's father grabbed her purse and fled with it. In addition, one of the women shoved Usquiano to the ground and hit her. Meanwhile, Restrepo ran after Gómez's father and, after a struggle, managed to recover Usquiano's purse but not her press card or her mobile phone.

After the journalists filed a complaint for theft and assault, officers from the local branch of the Judicial Police (SIJIN) went to the Gómez family's home and recovered Usquiano's press card, but they did not find the journalist's assailants nor were they able to recover the stolen mobile phone.

Major Henry Ramírez, of the SIJIN, told FLIP that the incident is still under investigation and that, as such, he did not want to comment on it.

FLIP is concerned over this incident and calls on the public to understand that it is the responsibility of the press to report on events such as the hearing into the Gómez case. FLIP urges the Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry to provide the journalists with protection and calls on the Justice Administration to investigate, capture and punish those responsible for the actions against Usquiano and Restrepo.

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