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Argentina9 January 2006

Another physical attack on TV journalist’s family supposedly protected by police

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at an abduction attempt and attack on 29 December on Juan Manuel Otero, the son of Daniel Otero, co-producer of the Azul TV programme ‘Puntodoc,’ whose family, especially his son, has repeatedly been the target of violence since he exposed school canteen food shortages in the Buenos Aires suburb of Florencio Varela in September 2004.

“This is the third time that Juan Manuel Otero has been the victim of reprisals by persons his father criticised or by their close associates,” the press freedom organisation said. “Such attacks are especially cowardly and hateful, and all the more incomprehensible as the Otero family is supposed to be getting police protection.”

Reporters Without Borders added : “The latest attack on Juan Manuel coincided with the release of two school council officials who were imprisoned as a result of the ‘Puntodoc’ revelations. We suspect that the local authorities may have been accomplices to this attack and we call on the federal authorities to intervene.”

Juan Manuel Otero was approached by three men in a car while on his way to his grandmother’s home in Quilmes, southeast of Buenos Aires, his father told Reporters Without Borders. One of them, aged about 35, got out and hit him in the face. Another got out and hit him as well saying, “We have other advice to give you.” The first man then tried to force him into the car but he struggled and succeeded in getting away.

The day of the attack, former Florencio Varela school board president Genaro Simioli and his treasurer, Viviana Ozán, were released following the conclusion of a preliminary enquiry into missing or spoiled food supplies in the municipality’s school canteens, as revealed by Otero’s programme in September 2004.

The local judicial authorities have scarcely reacted to all the attacks against the Otero family. Juan Manuel was badly beaten on 25 December 2004 by a gang of seven individuals who included Daniel Pereyra, the son of Florencio Varela mayor Julio Pereyra, who was also implicated in the canteen scandal.

Juan Manuel filed a complaint but it was not forwarded to a judge for 10 days, 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”.

On 12 March 2005, one of the windows of Daniel 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 had just been removed without prior notice, despite a promise given 24 hours before by judge Claudia Varela to keep it in place. As the judge in charge of investigating the previous December’s attack on Juan Manuel, Varela refused to take statements from two witnesses or to receive the family’s lawyer.

On 13 November 2005, Juan Manuel was followed by a car driven by Leonardo Simioli, the son of the former Florencio Varela school board president. Simioli tried to run him down three times.

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