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Argentina15 May 2003

Kirchner asked to show commitment to press freedom after supporters attack journalists

Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about physical attacks against TV crews by supporters of presidential candidates Carlos Menem and Néstor Kirchner in two separate incidents in the past few days and called on Kirchner, now president-elect, to show a commitment to press freedom.

"These attacks by supporters of presidential candidates are absolutely scandalous," Reporters Without Borders said. "We hope that Kirchner’s first decision as president will be to demonstrate his commitment to press freedom by ensuring that those responsible are punished, starting with his own supporters."

Canal 9 reporter Marcelo López Masía and his cameraman were attacked by supporters of Kirchner on the evening of 10 May when López tried to ask him about a transfer of Santa Cruz province public funds to a foreign bank account while he was the province’s governor. Kirchner refused to answer, and a few seconds later those accompanying him hit the TV reporter and his cameraman and destroyed part of their material. Kirchner did not try to stop them.

Menem supporters roughed up América 2 reporter Marcelo López and his cameraman and damaged their equipment in La Rioja on 14 May while they were outside the mansion of the provincial governor, Angél Mazza, where Menem had gone to decide whether or not to participate in the presidential run-off. The police then made them leave. (Coincidentally, the reporters in the two incidents have almost identical names.)

This was not the first time that supporters of Menem, who has been accused in several cases of corruption and tax fraud, were quick to react with the press. According to the Argentine press freedom organisation Periodistas, Menem’s security staff and supporters attacked journalists who were doing their job seven times in 2002.

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