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Argentina26 April 2007

Two radio journalists freed after three months, charges dropped

Radio journalists Néstor Pasquini, owner of local station FM Show and correspondent of the Red Panorama radio network, and Hugo Francischelli of FM 97.3 were finally freed on 16 March after being held for three months on charges of inciting violence, aggravated arson and causing minor injuries during a riot in a small town in the central province of Córdoba on 4 December. They were released for lack of evidence and, according to Pasquini’s lawyer, they will not be tried.

20.02.07 - Call for the release of two journalists who have spent two months in pretrial detention

Reporters Without Borders reiterated its call for the release of radio journalists Néstor Pasquini, owner of local station FM Show and correspondent of the Red Panorama radio network, and Hugo Francischelli of FM 97.3, as they completed their second month in pretrial detention today. They are charged with inciting violence in a riot they covered in Marcos Juárez, a small town in the central province of Córdoba.

“These two journalists were among the first of the 39 people who were arrested in the days following the demonstration in Marcos Juárez,” the press freedom organisation said in a letter to Córdoba governor José Manuel de la Sota. “Seven of them have just been freed. On what legal grounds are Pasquini and Francischelli being kept in prison?”

Reporters Without Borders added: “Are they accused of being in the wrong place at the wrong time while doing their job? If their prolonged pretrial detention is designed to conceal the lack of evidence against them, it is both ridiculous and arbitrary, and we call for their release.”

Pasquini and Francischelli covered a riot on 4 December in Marcos Juárez, near the city of Córdoba, in which the courthouse was badly damaged and a judge’s car was torched. It had been sparked by the rape and murder of a small girl.

Local prosecutor Carlos Ernesto Viramonte ordered the two journalists and eight other people arrested 16 days later on charges of inciting violence, arson and violent assault, which carry a combined maximum sentence of three to 15 years in prison.

Altogether, 39 people were arrested in connection with the riot and four others are still being sought by the police. On 16 February, Viramonte ordered the release of seven detainees, including Raúl Ruggeri, the brother of a former member of the Argentine national football team, Oscar Ruggeri.

“Why him and not our two colleagues?” a member of the Red Panorama staff asked in a telephone call with Reporters Without Borders. The source added that provincial governor De la Sota “publicly questioned the behaviour of the judges in this case on 11 February.”

The José Maggi law firm, which is acting for Francischelli, said a hearing was held yesterday about the detention of the two journalists. The local press said more of the detainees could be freed soon.

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