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Spain30 April 2008

Man beats Murcia news website editor’s car while he is inside it

Chema Gil, the editor of Noticias de Murcia (www.noticiasdemurcia.com), a regional news website, was the target of an attack on 28 April in Torre Pacheco, in the southeastern region of Murcia, by an unidentified man who hit Gil’s parked car several times with an iron bar while Gil was inside it. The assailant then ran off.

Gil regards the incident as the latest in a series of threats linked to the investigation he has been conducting for several years into a real estate project in Torre Pacheco, in which he believes several Murcia politicians and a local businessman have been involved in corrupt practices.

The attack came on the eve of the release of Torre Pacheco mayor Daniel García Madrid, one of the politicians allegedly involved in the case, who had been in pretrial detention for the past month.

Gil began getting threats when he first wrote several stories about the project in 2004 in his former newspaper, La Gaceta del Mar Menor. Most of the threats were made by telephone, but some were made on the Torre Pacheco town hall’s website. A threatening letter was also sent to the Murcia bureau of the national news agency EFE.

There was another wave of death threats against him, his wife and his daughter in February, which prompted them to leave Spain for several days as a precautionary measure.

A court in San Javier which is in charge of the case decided in February to lift reporting restrictions on the transcripts of telephone taps in the case file. According to Gil, some of the transcripts establish that Mayor García is involved in the threats against his family.

He accuses the authorities of failing to respond adequately to these repeated threats and says the police advised him to suspend his reporting on the grounds that it was not helping their investigation.

Reporters Without Borders urges the Spanish authorities to pursue their investigations in order to identify those responsible for the threats and to establish their motives.




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