Argentinean journalist continues to be threatened for his investigative work

Journalist Leonel Alberto Rodriguez‘ mother woke up last Saturday morning to a strong stench of paint coming from outside her home.

Soon after, Lidia Romagnoli, Rodriguez’ mother, made a gruesome discovery plastered in the entrance of their home in Santiago del Estero, some 1100 km north of Buenos Aires, the country’s capital: black paint, a replica of a coffin and candles with pins stuck on them, right outside their front door.

Rodriguez, 35, and a journalist for the past 18 years, has covered local politics and the judicial system extensively. He told the International Press Institute (IPI) this week that he has received numerous death threats for his journalistic work.

Leonel Alberto Rodriguez

Leonel Alberto Rodriguez, a correspondent for the Argentinean daily La Nación for the region of Santiago del Estero, has received numerous threats in person, over the phone, as well as, over social media platforms for his investigative work relating to local politics in his region. Last weekend, Rodriguez’ parents home in Santiago was tarnished with black paint, candles and a replica of a coffin.

However, the incident in his parents’ home marked the latest in a series of recent threats since August which he says stem from a case he uncovered concerning a sexual assault accusation against the city of La Banda’s former mayor, Héctor Eduardo Ruiz.

The legal file pertaining to the case had been concealed and the investigations had been stalled, Rodriguez told IPI. But the long-time journalist got a hold of the file and wrote an exclusive report for La Nación last month.

However, since Rodriguez began his investigation into the allegations against Ruiz, he has received threats in person, via telephone and through social media platforms, culminating in the incident outside his parents’ home on Nov. 8.

Local press freedom groups, such as the Association of Argentinean Journalistic Entities (ADEPA, for its initials in Spanish), have condemned the threats against Rodriguez and have called for a swift investigation into the matter.

Since the report about Ruiz was published, the case against the former mayor has been reopened and the city’s prosecutor, Ines Presti de Munnar, reportedly has made it a priority. Additionally, a group of women marched to the City Council offices earlier this month asking its members to impeach the former mayor, who now serves as a city councilman.

The city’s law enforcement office has offered Rodriguez and his family around-the-clock protection, in addition to a police presence outside their door. According to the journalist, the authorities are monitoring telephone calls made to him and postings on his social media accounts to identify further threats.

A report published earlier this year by the Argentinean Journalist Forum (FOPEA for its initials in Spanish) found that incidents targeting journalists in Argentina are on the rise. Just last year, the group registered at least 194 attacks against members of the press, which represent an increase of 12.7 percent from 2012.

  • Vanessa I. Garnica is IPI’s press freedom adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean. Contact her at +43 1512 9011 or vgarnica@freemedia.at

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