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Argentina19 September 2007

Labour dispute degenerates into violence as bad climate persists in Argentina media

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by an assault on journalist Tomás Eliaschev on 13 September in Buenos Aires in connection with a labour dispute. Eliaschev is the editor of perfil.com, a news website that is part of the Perfil press group. The attack is indicative of the terrible climate currently afflicting the Argentine news media.

The press freedom organisation also condemns the arrest and beating of radio journalist Carlos Furman by police in the northeastern province of Entre Ríos on 13 September. Furman has been the target of threats and violence in the past.

“We cannot take sides in the conflict between the Perfil group’s management and the Buenos Aires Press Workers Union (UTPBA),” the press freedom organisation said. “But its scale and violence show that it has clearly become much more than a journalistic dispute. The attack on Eliaschev, like Furman’s arrest, are symptomatic of an untenable climate of violence that refuses to let up.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “It is high time that, in the run-up to the 28 October elections, that journalists, media organisations and the authorities undertake to work together to defuse the situation.”

Perfil group journalists went on strike on 10 September over the dismissal of one of perfil.com’s reporters, Alejandro Wall. The company, which is headed by Jorge Fontevecchia, claims that because of journalists elections scheduled for 27-28 September, the UTPBA refused at the last minute to attend an 11 September meeting at the labour ministry that could have resulted in Wall being reinstated.

The situation degenerated on 13 September. Dispatched to the UTPBA office to request an explanation for its no-show two days before, Eliaschev was attacked and beaten repeatedly, sustaining head injuries. According to the UTPBA, some of its members were the target of acts of vandalism and intimidation a few hours later by persons claiming to represent the Worker Party, which has links to the Perfil group.

Eliaschev is the son of José “Pepe” Eliaschev, who had a programme that was taken off Radio Nacional on 30 December 2005 as a result of political pressure on the station’s management (see release of 5 January 2006). Last week’s attack is new blow to the Argentine press, which is already weakened by internal division and its strained relations with local and federal authorities.

The programme director of FM 2 de Octubre, a local radio station in Santa Elena (in Entre Ríos province), Furman reported on 13 September that he had been arrested and beaten by police four days earlier, after receiving death threats. At the end of August, he had talked on the air about the profanation of a cemetery, which he said had been played down by the police.

The police said Furman was simply arrested on a charge of “insult.” He was held overnight and was released on 14 September, after his lawyer intervened.

Furman has often accused the provincial authorities of corruption and personal enrichment in his programmes. He survived a shooting attack on 10 June 2006, holing up in a Santa Elena hotel for three months, with a bullet-proof vest.



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