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Argentina4 April 2002

Journalist assaulted in the province of Corrientes

In a letter to Ricardo Colombi, governor of the province of Corrientes, RSF expressed its concern over the attack on Maria Mercedes Vásquez, announcer for the radio station LT7 Radio Corrientes, in the province of Corrientes (in the country’s north-east). The organisation has asked for an "in-depth" investigation so that those responsible are identified and punished. "Only a serious investigation can put an end to the pressure and extortion that journalists are subjected to," underlined RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. Ménard noted that the journalist had previously received threats in February 2002. According to RSF, at least fifteen journalists were threatened or attacked in 2001.

According to information collected by RSF, on 1 April Vásquez was assaulted by unknown individuals. Two men forced the journalist to park her car by the side of the road and then immobilised her. They demanded that she "stop speaking" about a march organised by the Partido Nuevo (Panu, opposition party) calling for the release of the party’s leader, former governor Raúl Romero Feris. The assailants also prohibited Vásquez from continuing to report on an individual close to the Panu party, nicknamed "El Gitano" ("The Gypsy"). The journalist tried to fight off the men who punched her in the face and then fled. The week before, Vásquez had accused some Panu members of having clandestinely brought arms into Argentina.

RSF noted that on 20 February the journalist received a number of death threats over the telephone. The threats occurred soon after Senator Manuel Sussini of the Partido Autonomista filed a complaint against Vásquez and her husband, Silvio Valenzuela, who is also a journalist for LT7 Radio Corrientes. The senator invoked Article 81 of the province of Corrientes constitution, which penalises those who question senators’ "image, honour and morality". The two journalists had alleged on air that the senator was implicated in an act of corruption.

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