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FOPEA concerned over seizure of satirical magazine's poster exhibit

(FOPEA /IFEX) - The following is a 22 August 2007 statement from FOPEA, an interim member of IFEX:

Poster exhibit seized in Tucumán

On 16 August 2007, a group of men claiming to be municipal employees seized 20 posters that formed part of an outdoor exhibition held on a pedestrian walkway in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, northern Argentina. The posters, which have not been returned, were the main part of an exhibition of the back covers of "Barcelona" magazine, a satirical publication edited in the nation's capital, Buenos Aires.

"Barcelona" magazine editors have staged the exhibition in several cities in Argentina's interior over the period of a year. Organised locally by the Tucumán Press Association (Asociación de Prensa de Tucumán, APT) and a local bookstore, the exhibition opened in San Miguel de Tucumán on 3 August under the title "Tucumán Burns". This refers to an artistic and cultural movement that opposed authoritarian rule in the province in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Thirteen days after the exhibit opened, individuals who identified themselves as municipal inspectors told Miguel Frangoulis, the owner of the co-sponsoring bookstore, located on the same pedestrian walkway where the exhibition was being staged, that the exhibit could not be held on public property. APT press secretary Ramiro Rearte told FOPEA, however, that the municipal government secretary, Germán Alfaro, had assured him before the start of the exhibition that no permit was needed.

"The men who seized the material did not present any identification and they refused to show a judicial order. Moreover, they did not write an official report on the procedure. They put the 'Barcelona' posters in two municipal trucks," Frangoulis told FOPEA. One of the municipal employees assaulted Frangoulis's son, who attempted to photograph the incident, the bookstore owner added.

"It is curious that 13 days into the exhibition, the municipal employees became interested in the 'Back Covers'," Rearte said. "We don't want to think that the political power structure continues to limit the freedom of expression of the people of our province."

Nevertheless, the inconsistencies in the arguments presented by the municipality suggest that the seizure may have been aimed at preventing the exhibition from being staged.

In a 21 August letter to the San Miguel de Tucumán mayor, FOPEA expressed concern about the incident, demanding that it be investigated and requesting that the posters be returned. Five days after the incident, no information was available regarding the whereabouts of the posters and Mayor Domingo Amaya had not provided an official explanation.

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