Reporters Without Borders today voiced its support and called for stepped up protection for the staff of the daily El Periódico, after its editor was abducted and injected with barbiturates and an investigative journalist was beaten up and threatened within a 24-hour period.
Editor, José Rubén Zamora, was snatched on 20 August before being released barely conscious eight hours later while journalist, Oscar Ismatul, was ambushed the following day and threatened by four men who told him to “shut up”.
“Despite the appearance of ordinary crime, since both victims were robbed, these attacks seem above all aimed at silencing staff on El Periódico”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The warning was completely unmistakeable in the case of Oscar Ismatul, who has been writing articles for the paper about official corruption. Staff on El Periódico should get protection and we hope that a prompt investigation will uncover who was responsible”, it added.
Ismatul was chased by four men in a white car after he left the office in the afternoon of 21 August. Realising he was being followed, he got into a bus but as he got off again the driver of the white car blocked his path, while the three others lying in wait on the street corner managed to trap him.
They beat him up threatening him with guns and ordered him to “shut up” or face serious danger. His assailants also snatched his notes and papers, before forcing him to walk away in the opposition direction.
Editor, José Rubén Zamora, who was abducted 24 hours earlier, had his mobile phone and credit cards stolen. It was discovered that that he had been injected with barbiturates as a result of a blood test taken after the incident.