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Journalists assaulted by police, prevented from speaking to detainees

(SPP/IFEX) - 20 January 2010 - SPP condemns an incident of police brutality that took place at a press conference held by the national police chief on 20 January 2010, in which media workers were prevented from collecting statements from citizens in Concepción. The citizens had been detained as part of an investigation into the kidnapping of rancher Fidel Zavala.

The police officers acted aggressively in preventing journalists from speaking with Sonia Muñoz, one of the detained women who wanted to give a statement. The officers surrounded Muñoz and prevented photojournalists from approaching her.

Several media workers were hit when they tried to gather information. Ramón Sánchez, a cameraman for Canal 2, was kicked. Gabriela León, a journalist for Centro Informativo Multimedios (Canal 4 and 11), was hit with her microphone. Marlene Velázquez, a journalist with the Sistema Nacional de Televisión (SNT), was also assaulted, among others. One of the police officers was identified as Diego Pérez; the others hid their ID.

SPP condemns the police's actions for preventing the journalists' free access to information and the detainees' freedom of expression. The head of the police's Anti-Kidnapping Division, Superintendent Francisco Alvarenga, introduced the detainees as guilty of the kidnapping that is yet to be investigated, saying that "they must demonstrate their innocence," clearly violating constitutional and legal rights to the presumption of innocence.

SPP demands that human rights and due legal processes be respected and condemns the national government's actions as a witch hunt that violates the rights set out by the national constitution and legal system.

SPP demands that the Interior Minister, Rafael Filizzola, and the police commander, José Visitación Giménez, open an investigation to identify the people responsible for the aggression against the journalists.

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