Radio reporter wounded while covering social protest

New York, September 13, 2007—Argentine radio reporter Adela Gómez was injured Wednesday after national border guards fired rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters blocking a road in the southern province of Santa Cruz.

Gómez, a reporter with radio station FM XXI in the city of Caleta Olivia, about 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires, was covering a union protest by workers of Empasa, an oil services company, the local press reported. A group of employees were blocking a road when members of the national border police decided to clear it to allow hundreds of government supporters to make their way to a presidential campaign address in Río Gallegos, the provincial capital, said the daily Clarín

When the protesters refused to evacuate the road, border guards used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. Gómez was shot twice in the foot and had to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her wounds. The reporter claimed the attack was intentional, since she was clearly identified as a working journalist. She said she was shot even after identifying herself as a reporter, and complained that while she was hurt government militants made fun of her, said the daily Página 12.

Later that day, the commander of the border police announced that the chief of the operation and the guard who shot at the journalist had been discharged from the force. A federal prosecutor will investigate whether they used excessive force, said Clarín. Gómez was released from the hospital today.

 “We are deeply concerned by the wounding of our colleague Adela Gómez, and urge the authorities to thoroughly investigate the actions of the national border police,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is crucial that journalists are able to report freely without fear of physical harm on the problems facing Argentina in the period leading up to the country’s presidential elections.”

Santa Cruz, the home province of President Néstor Kirchner, has been the center of a string of social protests this year ahead of the October 28 presidential elections. Senator Cristina Fernández, Kirchner’s wife, is running as a candidate for the official Frente para la Victoria party, and is the frontrunner to succeed him.