In Argentina, two local journalists attacked within a week

New York, August 21, 2012–Authorities in Argentina must immediately investigate violent attacks on two local journalists and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The unrelated attacks occurred within the space of a week. 

“Local Argentine journalists have been vulnerable to these kinds of attacks in the past,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Authorities must act decisively to clamp down on this criminal behavior and prosecute those responsible.”

Unidentified assailants threw a Molotov cocktail at the car of Silvio Novelino, director of the monthly newspaper El Pepirí, at around 3 a.m. Monday, the journalist told the local TV station Misiones Cuatro. The vehicle was in the garage adjacent to Novelino’s house in the city of Bernardo de Irigoyen in northeastern Misiones province, he said. Novelino was not injured in the attack, but the fire caused damage to his car, news reports said.

Novelino said his newspaper frequently published critical articles on issues such as local corruption and that he believed the attackers could be among a number of people who were upset by his reporting, according to news reports. The journalist said he had “gotten used” to receiving threats for his work. Jorge Héctor Munaretto, chief of police in the province, told the local press group Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA) that Novelino’s house was now under police protection.

Another journalist was attacked and threatened six days earlier. Hernán García, director of the local radio station FM UNO, said the mayor of the town of Sancti Spíritu, in the province of Santa Fe, had summoned him to a meeting outside town on August 14, the journalist reported on FM UNO. García said Abel Fontenla hit him in the face and threatened him with a gun, saying he would kill him. García said he recorded the attack, and had uploaded it to the station’s website. In the recording, an unidentified voice can be heard saying, “I swear I’ll kill you. … I came to kill you.” The journalist said he reported the attack to local authorities.

Fontenla denied the allegations and said he knew nothing of the recording, according to local news reports. A search of the mayor’s house did not turn up any weapons, according to news reports. García had recently used his radio station to call on Fontenla to “show the balance sheets to the Sancti Spíritu community,” and be more transparent, according to news reports.

CPJ has documented attacks on local journalists in Argentina in recent months. On May 29, Gustavo Tinetti, host for “Despertate” on Cadena Nueve radio station and a reporter for the station’s website, was threatened by an unidentified gunman who walked into the station’s office.

  • For more data and analysis on Argentina, visit CPJ’s Argentina page here.