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Argentina18 November 2005

Journalist suffers constant harassment after writing book on dictatorship years

Reporters Without Borders voiced serious concern at harassment in the form of threats and legal action against author and journalist Mariano Saravia after he wrote a book exposing police abuses during the dictatorship (1976-1983).

“Journalistic investigation disturbs people because it allows light to be finally shed on the dark years of Argentina’s military regime,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We therefore urge the authorities, who have the responsibility for establishing the truth about that era, to take the necessary steps to guarantee the safety and independence of journalists who work on these still very sensitive issues”, it added.

Saravia, of the daily La Voz del Interior in Córdoba, central Argentina, told Reporters Without Borders that he has been the target of threats and “judicial persecution” since his book, La Sombra Azul (The Blue Shadow), probing police activity during the dictatorship, came out in March 2005.

On 23 July, the journalist found a dozen .45 calibre bullets left outside his home. At the start of August, a swastika was painted on the walls of his house and in October he found a dead bird hanging by its claws inside his garage. A big pot of flowers was smashed in the courtyard of his home on 6 November.

Suspicious looking vehicles have been parked outside his house on several occasions and he continues to regularly receive threatening phone calls involving insults, lengthy silence, funereal music, screams or dogs barking. His own dog has just mysteriously gone missing.

Saravia has also been harassed by members of the military, Luis Alberto Manzanelli, Luis Gustavo Diedrich and Ricardo Lardone, whom he refers to in La Sombra Azul, and who are now in prison accused of crimes against humanity. They have all threatened lawsuits against him by letter.

One soldier, José Hugo Herrera, has already begun a civil suit against the journalist seeking 50,000 pesos damages (nearly 15,000 euros), for “libel”. Saravia is having 20% of his salary attached ahead of the verdict.

“I am just waiting for the trial so that I can present the proof of everything that I said in my book. As for the intimidation, I think it’s more of a way of seeking revenge than real death threats,” he told Reporters Without Borders.

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