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Politician, his wife and daughter assault radio journalist in broadcast booth

(CMFR/IFEX) - A radio journalist claimed that he was attacked in his broadcast booth by a local politician, his wife and their daughter on 24 October 2007 in Compostela Valley. The broadcaster was on air at the time. Compostela Valley is a province approximately 900 kilometres south of Manila.

Roel Sembrano said he was in the middle of his radio show "Ang Haring Lungsod, Ikaw Nasayod" ("Nation, you are the one who knows") on MBC Radyo Natin (Our Radio), when provincial board member Neri Barte barged into his booth while allegedly armed with a gun.

Sembrano's radio show is a public affairs programme in which he airs political commentaries. Sembrano said that Barte punched him in the right cheek, grabbed a wooden trophy - approximately a foot in length - from one of the cabinets in the booth and hit him on the forehead with it.

Barte's 21-year-old daughter followed a few minutes later with her mother, according to Sembrano. The daughter grabbed a cup of water that was on Sembrano's desk and poured it on him, before throwing the cup at the broadcaster's face.

Barte's wife, said Sembrano, was at the same time pulling his shirt while also slapping and scratching him. Barte, along with his wife and daughter, were shouting at him while the programme was on air, prompting some members of the municipal government, located a few kilometres away, to go to the station, according to the broadcaster.

"What is your problem? What did I to you? You jerk! You bastard!" Barte allegedly shouted at Sembrano.

Barte, however, has a different account of the incident. According to him, it was his daughter and wife who, upon hearing Sembrano criticise Barte on air, went to the station from their house, which is approximately 500 metres away.

Barte said he only accompanied his wife and daughter to "pacify them". Barte added that he did not lay a finger on Sembrano and was not carrying a gun.

But according to Daisy Alejandro, who was being interviewed at the time by Sembrano, it was Barte who first came into the radio booth, shouting and cursing at Sembrano, and it was only about 15 minutes later that Barte's wife and daughter came to join the provincial board member in shouting, cursing and harassing the radio broadcaster. She said she did not see any gun, but that she left the booth when Barte arrived to look for someone who could mediate between the two. Alejandro did not see any police official who could intervene, so she went back to the booth after about 15 minutes, and it was then that she saw Barte's wife and daughter in the booth.

Barte told the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility that he was angry at Sembrano because the latter had no right to criticise him, being a "fake journalist". Barte added that Sembrano had no right saying he was a "good-for-nothing" government official since he has already garnered many awards. He also denied laying a finger on Sembrano because, according to him, he is a martial arts expert and if it were indeed true that he had punched the broadcaster, then the latter would now be in critical condition.

Police inspector Leopoldo Mantilla, who went to the radio station after being called by a concerned citizen, said that he did not see any gun. Mantilla said that when he arrived at the station, the situation was already calm as Barte had already been pacified by Juncel Taquio, the station manager. He said that he did not frisk Barte since he did not have a search warrant.

Sembrano later sought treatment at a hospital for his bruised forehead.

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