December 11, 2002
President Eduardo Alberto Duhalde
Republic of Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Via facsímile: 54-11-4344-3700
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is gravely concerned about increasing attacks against and intimidation of journalists, which has fostered a climate of fear among members of the press.
It is critical in the months leading up to the 2003 presidential elections that journalists are able to report freely on the grave problems facing Argentina, including a collapsing economy. CPJ has documented several disturbing instances in which journalists have been targeted with physical aggression and harassment during the last seven weeks. None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.
We would like to express concern about the following incidents:
- On November 26, two unidentified assailants attacked a federal police officer who was guarding journalist and writer Miguel Bonasso’s home in the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. The attackers, who were dressed as private security officers, threw the police officer to the ground, disarmed him, and took his bulletproof vest. Bonasso, who works for the Buenos Airesbased daily Página 12, said the incident likely came in retaliation for his forthcoming book about the social unrest that occurred in Argentina in December 2001, when more than 30 people were killed, and former President Fernando De la Rúa resigned. For almost two years, Bonasso has been under police protection because of threats he has received in connection with his work. Authorities were unable to establish motives in the attack, and CPJ is following the case closely.
- On November 25, an oil truck driver and security guard assaulted photographer Jorge Sagastume and reporter Augusto Recordón, of the La Platabased daily El Día, in Ensenada. The journalists were reporting on an oil truck that had broken down and was discharging methane, a highly toxic substance. Daniel Albornoz, the truck driver, tried to stop Sagastume from documenting the spill, but when the photographer resisted, the driver insulted him and hit him in the head. When the journalists were leaving the scene, the security guard tried to grab Recordón’s notebook.
- On November 23, Damián Loffler, a legislator from the southern province of Tierra del Fuego, showed up at the La Isla “radio station where he insulted, threatened, and tried to attack journalist Armando Cabral during a broadcast of the program “La Raya.” Station owner, Miriam Iriarte, told CPJ that Loffler, was angry with Cabral’s criticism of his performance as a legislator
- Also on November 23, supporters of Río Negro Province governor Pablo Verani assaulted several journalists–including photojournalist José Luis Perroni of the General Rocabased daily Río Negro and photographer Gustavo Reguera and columnist Luis Leiva, both of the Neuquén-based daily La Mañana del Sur–who were reporting on the governor’s visit to the General Roca region. The reporters had witnessed the governor’s supporters attacking members of Corriente Clasista y Combativa, an organization that represents unemployed workers. Police officers present at the scene failed to respond stating that they could not divert their attention from guarding the governor.
- At a rally for former President Carlos Menem on November 19, Menem supporters kicked and punched journalists Martín Cicioli, Nicolás Chausovsky, and Sergio Di Nápoli, from the Buenos Aires Canal 13 television show “Kaos en la ciudad.” Chausovsky told CPJ that while they were waiting behind the press barrier, a group of Menem supporters moved toward them, insulting and physically attacking them while they covered the rally. Miguel Santiago, a producer for Todo Noticias, a 24-hour cable news station, and his colleague, cameraman Ignacio Marcalain, were also assaulted.
- On October 26, police attacked Alberto Recanatini and Tomás Eliaschev, reporters of Indymedia Argentina, an international organization of alternative media, while they were covering a demonstration calling for the release of 30 activists arrested during a Greenpeace Argentina protest. In an attempt to disperse the crowd, the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas. Eliaschev told CPJ that when the police became aware that they were being filmed, they shot rubber bullets at the journalists and tried to destroy the journalists’ equipment.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists committed to defending our colleagues worldwide, we urge you to do everything in your power to protect professionals who are doing their job of informing the public, and to see that the perpetrators of these violent acts are brought to justice.
Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your response.