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Radio station closed in Roldán

(FOPEA/IFEX) - 14 April 2011 - The Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA) is concerned about the unusual measures carried out by Roberto Bufarini, a misdemeanours court judge in Roldán, Santa Fe province, who decided to close local radio station Radio Total FM 97.7 and seize its broadcasting equipment.

The decision was relayed to the station's owner, Víctor Orellana, on 23 March, after the station was found to be operating without a licence. Provincial and municipal police were involved in the closure of the station.

Judge Bufarini told FOPEA that his decision was based on complaints from July 2010 made by neighbours of the station who said they were experiencing interference in their phone lines, other radio stations and TV stations. There are other FM stations in Roldán, but complaints were only made against Radio Total.

Orellana told FOPEA that his outlet is registered with the Federal Audiovisual Communications Services Authority (Autoridad Federal de Servicios de Comunicación Audiovisual, AFSCA) and that the station's licence is currently being processed. Orellana said he has presented documentation to this effect to Roldán municipal authorities.

Orellana also said this is the latest in a string of incidents and threats that have stemmed from local mayor José Pedretti and members of his office, resulting from the fact that Radio Total is the only local station that is critical of this community leader. Judge Bufarini was appointed by the City Council during Pedretti's first term in office, in 2003.

Orellana said that Pedretti was ignoring information requests from the station and that Radio Total had been hampered by a complete information block from the local authorities, whereas nothing of this nature had been experienced by other local broadcasters. Pedretti told FOPEA that Radio Total had been criticising him since the station was founded and that after a few run-ins with the station he had decided to cut off communication.

FOPEA condemns the threats and actions by the municipal authorities against Radio Total and calls on the local executive to put an end to these actions against journalists exercising their freedom of expression.

Orders and penalties against the media are the responsibility of AFSCA with implementation through the Ministry of Communications; these cannot be carried out without the intervention of the federal justice system. In no way does a municipal judge have the authority to interfere with such procedures aside from making a complaint to AFSCA. Likewise, only federal or armed forces police can be involved in the closure of a station, not local security forces.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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