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Journalist alleges his pending dismissal orchestrated by politician, following threat

(SPP/IFEX) - The SPP condemns the effort by the Concepción-based newspaper "ABC Color" to dismiss, without just cause, its reporter, Telmo Ibáñez. The attempted firing is apparently based on the effort of a politician, believed to be involved in acts of corruption, to frame the journalist. The politician in question had previously threatened Ibáñez that he would "bring him down" as a journalist.

The newspaper's management first attempted to coax Ibáñez into resigning, with an offer of money. They explained that their request stemmed from the fact that they had "lost confidence" in him as a reporter since having received "proof" that he had solicited a bribe. When Ibáñez refused to resign, the newspaper initiated a legal action to have him "fired with due cause".

According to Ibáñez, the purported "proof" of his soliciting a bribe is an audio recording, spliced into a montage to misrepresent the actual conversation, which was given to the newspaper by Congressman Magdaleno Silva, a politician suspected of having ties with criminal elements in the country's north.

Ibáñez explains that, while conducting an investigation into environmental protection efforts in the country's north, he received a number of strange telephone calls from someone calling himself "Jorge". The caller said he had a package for Ibáñez, related to his work, and at one point implied that cash was involved. Suspicious of the call, Ibáñez never made final arrangements to meet with the caller.

Some days later, Ibáñez was called into a closed meeting with the newspaper's chief editor, who told Ibáñez that someone had called in to accuse the journalist of soliciting a bribe.

"The supposed 'proof' was my phone conversations with 'Jorge', who has surreptitiously recorded our conversations and edited them to create the impression that I had asked for money," says Ibáñez. "In truth, the only reference to money in the recording is when the caller tells me that he thinks the package he is delivering contains money.

"I hold the reasonable suspicion that the recording was given to my employers by national congressman Magdaleno Silva, as in the background of the recording, which was transmitted to the newspaper by phone, you can hear his voice. Indeed, the recording finishes with an imperious voice - Silva's - ordering my boss to fire me since I am 'dishonest and a bandit'.

"Before all this happened, Silva had called me on my cell phone, threatening that he would 'bring me down' as a journalist."

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