Reporters Without Borders

 Death threats and attacks on Neuquén radio journalist

Death threats and attacks on Neuquén radio journalist

Published on Monday 4 July 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders condemns the persecution of Mario Sánchez, a radio journalist based in the town of Centenario, in the southwestern province of Neuquén, who has been the target of repeated attacks and threats that began on 19 June, when unidentified intruders set fire to his home after taking his computer and travel documents.

The press freedom organization calls on the authorities to intervene and organize protection for Sánchez, a reporter and presenter for municipal radio Sayhueque 88.7 FM and a correspondent for radio LU5 AM.

Married, the father of two children and a member of the Neuquén Press Union, Sánchez filed a complaint with the local police after the 19 June attack on his home and then moved his family to a safe location. Responsibility for the investigation was transferred to a court and prosecutors in the provincial capital.

Nonetheless, bottles containing inflammable liquid were thrown into the courtyard of his home a few days later without exploding. A threatening message attached to a brick was thrown at his home on 25 June. With a photo of Neuquén governor Jorge Augusto Sapag, the message was put together with letters cut from magazines. Referring to Sapag’s party, the Neuquén People’s Movement (MPN), it said: “He who attacks the MPN will die.”

Governor Sapag told the newspaper La Mañana Neuquén that the attacks on Sánchez were “an attack on freedom of expression and the right of journalists to practice their profession.” He added: “I promise to make all possible resources available to the justice system and to give Mario Sánchez and his family the guarantees they need to go about their daily activities in peace, tranquillity and safety.”

But so far, the measures consist solely of a police guard outside his home.

Oscar Livera, a colleague of Sánchez and secretary-general of the Neuquén Press Union, said: “What happened to Mario is very serious. He is very afraid. As he is busy rebuilding his house, he not yet been able to go back to work.”

Livera said the attacks were puzzling inasmuch as Sánchez was not covering any subject that could hurt the governor but he insisted that a connection with Sánchez’s work could not be ruled out. “It was not an ordinary break-in. We are looking at all the possibilities. But what concerns us most at the moment, is ensuring that Mario and his family are safe. What these people are doing must not go unpunished.”

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