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Argentina31 August 2006

Local peronist leader beats journalist unconscious in Quilmes town hall

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at a violent attack on journalist Pedro Navarro, who was beaten unconscious by a local leader of the ruling Peronist Party on 18 August at the town hall of Quilmes, in Buenos Aires province. Navarro had gone there to distribute copies of the two local newspapers he edits, the weekly Nuevo Horizonte and the daily Quilmes a Diario. He also runs a local radio station, Radio Quilmes 106.9.

“The attack on Navarro is yet further evidence of the Quilmes town hall’s appalling attitude towards the media,” the press freedom organisation said. “The federal authorities must firmly rein in these local politicians who show so little respect for press pluralism. Navarro’s assailant should receive an exemplary punishment.”

When Navarro arrived at the town hall on 18 August, local Peronist leader José Luís Seoane threw himself at him, insulting him and punching him in the face until he lost consciousness. He was hospitalised with cranial traumatism and high blood pressure. There was no sign of serious internal lesions in X-rays of his brain and spinal column but he was kept in hospital for several days for observation.

Seoane, who was released after being taken to the local police station, said Navarro had called him a “criminal” and he “could not forgive him for that.”

Navarro is a frequent critic of the Quilmes town hall’s policies. He has also spoken out against harassment and censorship of the local press. Reached by Reporters Without Borders, he described Seoane as an intermediary between Quilmes mayor Sergio Villordo and interior minister Aníbal Fernández, and claimed that Seoane had been paid to attack him.

He said that on the day prior to the attack he had run into Seoane at a demonstration against recent police repression of students. When Navarro told Seoane to leave the march because he had participated in the controversial police operations, Seoane reportedly responded that he would get his revenge.

Navarro has brought a complaint against Seoane, accusing him of causing him physical injuries, but Seoane is still free and still politically active.

For the past few months, journalists in Quilmes have complained of receiving threats from local and national authorities and of the difficulties they constantly encounter in their work. The Federal Broadcast Commission (Comfer) recently withdrew the licences of Radio Quilmes 106.9 and Fan 103.9, another local station that is at odds with the mayor. The two stations took this up with parliament and on 7June the lower house unanimously approved a motion calling on Comfer to restore their licences. This has not yet been done, however.

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