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Argentina10 March 2005

Journalists become a threatened species in Tierra del Fuego

A year after an arson attack gutted the printing press and editorial offices of El Diario del Fin del Mundo daily newspaper in Ushuaia, the capital of the far-south province of Tierra del Fuego, Reporters Without Borders condemned the continuing impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators as well as other, repeated acts of intimidation against Tierra del Fuego journalists that have gone unpunished.

"The region’s political, judicial and police authorities must solve these crimes which are violations of the right to work as a journalist without threat or impediment," the press freedom organization said in a letter to Tierra del Fuego governor Mario Jorge Colazo.

"We request the resumption and successful completion of the investigation into the arson attack on the El Diario del Fin del Mundo," the letter continued. "We also call on the authorities to put an end to the climate of impunity for attacks and threats against journalists, and to guarantee the right to inform the public with complete safety."

After the fire on 6 March 2004 at the Diario del Fin del Mundo, the police and firemen did not take long to conclude that it was deliberate. Five days before the fire, Carmen Miranda, one of the newspaper’s journalists and secretary-general of the Ushuaia Press Union, had been approached at night by two men who introduced themselves a police officers and then asked her for her colleagues’ home addresses.

The same day, Alfredo Valdéz of Radio Nacional found his car damaged and daubed with yellow paint. The same method had been used a few days before with Héctor Lavia, the owner and managing editor of another local daily, Prensa, who had been investigating the assets of one of the province’s ministers.

A year later, on 20 February 2005, Marcelo Martín, the editor of the online news site, found his car vandalized in a similar fashion. "We are not certain that this attack is linked to his work as a journalist, but the modus operandi is the same and the authorities have nothing resembling a lead," Miranda told Reporters Without Borders. Martín said he had "no doubt about the link between the attack" and his website’s coverage of the southern region’s "political instability."

The Ushuaia Press Union today voiced its support for Martín and stressed that those responsible for the arson attack on El Diario del Fin del Mundo are still at large. Similarly, the police never identified who was behind the arson attack on the newspaper Prensa 23 seven years ago in Río Grande.

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