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Report: Attacks on Argentinian Press Spiked in 2012

Attacks against members of the Argentinian press rocketed an alarming 41 percent in 2012, advocacy group Argentinian Journalism Forum (FOPEA) [es] revealed in their latest freedom of expression report.

The forum's Monitoreo de Libertad de Expresión [es] (Freedom of Expression Monitor) reported that there were 172 attacks in 2012, compared to 122 in 2011. The cases included physical and psychological aggression, threats, attacks against property, harassment, and censorship.

The Argentinian Freedom of Expression Monitoring Programme [es] began in 2008 with the aim of detecting all kinds of limitations on freedom of expression, from the most direct and obvious to the most subtle. It works through the collaborative effort of a network of self-motivated volunteers stationed throughout the nation's provinces who take action whenever there is a complaint. FOPEA is also a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX).

The 2012 edition of the report was launched exclusively on social networking sites. Under the hash-tag #MonitoreoFOPEA, users spread the word, revealing the main issues and connecting with the victims themselves. The same happened on Facebook where users, including the journalist, Juan Mascardi [es], shared news:

La provincia de Santa Fe ocupa el #Top3 en el ranking de ataques a la prensa en 2012 http://monitoreolde.com.ar/ según el Foro de Periodismo Argentino Entre esos casos está el ataque al compañero Luis Martínez, camarógrafo de Telefe Noticias de Canal 5 durante los saqueos de diciembre. A pesar de existir foto del agresor, nunca hubo Justicia. Penoso.

Santa Fe province is in the #Top3 for attacks on members of the press in 2012 http://monitoreolde.com.ar/ according to the Argentinian Journalism Forum. Among these cases is the assault on my friend Luis Martínez, cameraman for Channel 5 Telefe Noticias during the looting in December. Even though a photograph of the attacker exists, there has never been Justice. Painful.

Principales hallazgos del informe

Main findings in the report

The Knight Center blog echoed the report, summarising some of the fundamental findings:

Uno de los puntos claves del informe fue que debido a la “impunidad de los agresores y la incapacidad de las instancias judiciales de resolver las denuncias”, el principal agresor fue definido como “desconocido” o “anónimo”. No obstante, se identificó que en 21 casos los responsables fueron funcionarios municipales.

De hecho, el informe detectó que el factor más hostil lo representa la actividad política a nivel municipal, provincial y nacional debido a que “existen decenas de funcionarios y politicos que no respetan el ejercicio profesional del periodismo”.

One of the key points of the report is that due to the “impunity of the attackers and the inability of judicial proceedings to resolve accusations,” the aggressor in most incidents is marked in the report as “unknown” or “anonymous.” Nevertheless, municipal officials were identified as the attackers in 21 of the cases.

The report stated that municipal, provincial and national political activity represents the greatest danger to journalists, given that there are “dozens of officials and politicians that do not respect the professional exercise of journalism.”

Clases de periodismo also writes about this topic, noting the change in the ways in which the assaults are measured:

El monitoreo intenta desnaturalizar las agresiones que antes eran percibidas como “gajes del oficio”. Por eso — aseguran— la evolución de la cantidad de casos muchas veces no tiene que ver tanto con un aumento real de la cantidad de ataques, “sino con una evolución en nuestra forma de visibilizarlas”.

The monitor tries to denature the assaults which before were seen as “perks of the job”. They claim, therefore, that the change in the number of cases very often is not so much to do with a real increase in attacks, “but rather with a change in how we visualise them”.

Key elements of the 2012 report [es]:

Assaults. FOPEA recorded that in 70 percent of cases in 2012 the victims were men. Another 12 percent were women and 16 percent were media companies or the press in general.

In the provinces. Most of the assaults took place within the provinces [es], and then in the provincial capitals. In 2012, The Argentinian Freedom of Expression Monitoring Programme recorded nine cases in Río Negro and La Rioja and seven in Salta, Entre Ríos, La Pampa and Jujuy.

Mapa que registra las agresiones por provincia

Map recording assaults by province.

The worst attacker. Due to the impunity of the attackers and the inability of judicial proceedings to resolve accusations, the main type of attacker is “unknown” or “anonymous”.

Average. Among the victims, 23 percent of the journalists attacked work for radio stations.

Type of attack. In 2012, 26 percent of the assault cases on journalists were physical and/ or psychological attacks. 22 percent were threats and, in some cases, death threats. 17 percent were attacks on property.

Physical aggression. The greatest number of attacks (122) were physical and or psychological, followed by threats (93), attacks on property, issuance or dissemination (76), harassment (74), restrictions to the access of information and obstructions to coverage (37), censorship (26) and judicial harassment (7).

Beyond the increasing numbers, FOPEA also estimates that there are many assaults that are kept quiet, and so the work they do everyday is vital:

Nuestra organización es consciente de que muchos casos en los que los periodistas que son víctimas de ataques a la libertad de expresión por parte de gobiernos, organizaciones o privados, no son difundidos precisamente por temor a represalias comerciales, laborales o físicas. Ayudar a vencer esas barreras es un objetivo central del monitoreo.

Our organisation is aware of many cases in which journalists are the victim of attacks on their freedom of expression by governments, organisations or individuals. They are not talked about simply because of the fear of commercial, financial and work-related reprisals. Helping to overcome these barriers is a central aim of the monitoring programme.

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