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Two journalists assaulted by police while trying to cover demonstration against homelessness

(SPP/IFEX) - The SPP condemns the cowardly assault on "La Nación" newspaper journalists Gerardo Benítez and Ismael Villalba by members of the national police force.

On the morning of 24 June 2008, during a protest by "Sin Techo" organisations against homelessness in front of the Office of the Secretary for Social Action (SAS) in Asunción, the national capital, Benítez, a journalist, and Villalba, a photojournalist, were assaulted by the "cascos azules", as the national police are known. The individual policemen cannot be identified due to lack of cooperation on the part of police commissioner Ireneo Giménez, according to "ABC Color" newspaper's webpage.

Benítez said that he was on the sidewalk, alongside the "Sin Techo" demonstration, when a column of police advanced toward him. First they used their shields to separate him from the other people present, then they began kicking him. "I turned around to try to get away; when Villalba tried to take photographs, they started kicking him too, said Benítez.

Villalba said that when he tried to take photographs of the assailants, they continued kicking both journalists. As well, he added, "every time I tried to get closer and take a photograph, they covered their faces with their helmets.

Police chief Giménez took responsibility for the actions of the assailants, but refused to identify the particular police officers involved.

The SPP's board expresses its full support for the journalists who were attacked, and holds the national government responsible for the safety of journalists and other media workers. It also asks for the assailants and their superiors to be punished appropriately.

The SPP also urges all journalists to continue to report these kinds of incident whenever they occur, and to expand the ranks of our organisation to strengthen it and put a definitive end to the assaults and threats that journalists and other media workers currently have to endure.

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