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Argentina22 March 2005

Repeated attempts to intimidate TV producer and family

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at an attempt to intimidate Daniel Otero, the co-producer of the investigative programme "Puntodoc" on Azul TV, on 12 March in Quilmes, in southeast Buenos Aires, which follows a number of threats against him and a physical attack on his 19-year-old son on 25 December.

The harassment appears to stem from Otero’s revelations last September that school canteens in the municipality Florencio Varela (on the south side of Buenos Aires) either lacked food or were being supplied with spoiled food. The programme blamed mayor Julio Pereyra and former school council president Genaro Simioli.

"We protest against the impunity apparently enjoyed by those responsible for this harassment, who not only target him but also his family," the press freedom organization said. "We also call for a thorough investigation to establish the role of the local authorities and, in general, we demand that press freedom be respected in this part of the country."

Otero received anonymous threats after the Puntodoc programme was broadcast. Then his son, Juan Manuel Otero, was physically attacked on 25 December by a gang of seven individuals who included the mayor’s son, Daniel Pereyra. Injured in nose and head, Otero’s son sought help from the police but they ignored him.

He filed a complaint but it was not forwarded to a judge until 10 days went by, although it should have been sent within 72 hours. The police also refused to describe the incident as an "assault" in the complaint, substituting the term "brawl."

In the 12 March incident in Quilmes, one of the windows of Otero’s car was broken and a knife was placed on a seat as an apparent warning. This occurred while it was parked near his mother’s house. Police protection for the house, which Otero had requested, had just been removed without prior notice, despite a judge’s promise 24 hours earlier to keep it in place.

Claudia Varela, the judge in charge of investigating the attack on Otero’s son, refused on 19 March to take statements from two witnesses or to receive the family’s lawyer, who did not get access to the case file until 11 March.

Mario Lettieri, the editor of the newspaper Varela al Día, who was interviewed in the originally Puntodoc programme, was also attacked on 27 February in similar fashion to Otero’s son. In Lettieri’s case, the assailants included the former school council president’s son and the brother of a member of the council.

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