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Ecuador14 November 2005

TV presenter publicly insulted and threatened by parliamentarian

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about insults made by Alfonso Harb, a parliamentary representative of the Social Christian Party, against Paco Velasco, the producer and presenter of the programme “La Clave” for Quito-based Radio La Luna.

“We call on Harb to retract his offensive comments about Velasco and we urge the government to support the journalist and give him protection,” the press freedom organisation said.

Harb reportedly made slanderous remarks about Velasco on several occasions. The comments referred to his personal life and to Radio La Luna’s business dealings. Harb said he was personally conducting an investigation into these matters.

He also publicly accused Velasco of being “under the heel” of the government and of “instigating chaos and anarchy” by his comments on the air.

Ecuador’s Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH) claimed that Harb had threatened Velasco in an even more direct way, saying he was looking for him in order “to punish him man to man.”

These public comments have come amid a campaign by several parliamentarians to discredit opinion-makers who support President Alfredo Palacio’s call for a referendum on a proposed constituent assembly.

Velasco and Radio La Luna were already targeted earlier this year after playing a key role in President Lucio Gutiérrez’s ouster on 20 April. The radio station was the target of two attacks and Velasco fled the country with his family on 2 May, prompting then interior minister Mauricio Gándara to personally intervene on his behalf.

Velasco is currently getting special protection from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an offshoot of the Organisation of American States.

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