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San Luis National Radio station subjected to repeated attacks

(FOPEA /IFEX) - On 11 September 2008, FOPEA announced its mounting concern with respect to a series of events that appear to amount to a concerted effort to silence the LRA 29 San Luis National Radio station (LRA 29 Radio Nacional San Luis), located in the province of San Luis, in the central western region of Argentina. The organisation is calling on the provincial government of Alberto Rodríguez Saá to immediately investigate the incidents.

In June a fire that is presumed to have been intentionally set took place at one of San Luis National Radio's broadcasting centres, resulting in the station being unable to broadcast to the province's interior. The legal process regarding this incident has experienced delays and the radio station's representatives have said their attempts to access the files on the case have been obstructed.

The radio station's director, Silvia Niño, told FOPEA that since she took over as director in May 2006, a series of suspicious incidents have taken place. In June 2006, a coaxial cable was cut at the radio station's broadcasting facility located at kilometer 5 on Provincial Route 20, in San Luis province. The cutting of the cable resulted in the station being unable to broadcast its AM programming. Previously, a fire in the fields surrounding the same broadcasting centre had put the facility at risk. On 23 May 2008, Niño received a death threat on her home phone and, on 3 June, a robbery took place at the Route 20 broadcasting facility. On 11 Jun,e there was an even larger fire in the field surrounding the facility.

This chain of events ended in a 14 June fire that completely destroyed the station's AM broadcasting equipment, in addition to other technical equipment and furniture. The facility's roof collapsed in the fire. Since the fire, the station has been unable to broadcast to the province's interior.

The province's security minister, Colonel Guillermo López, told FOPEA that the firefighters' and provincial police's report contains no indications that the fire was set intentionally and San Luis government sources have suggested that the series of events can be explained by the drought that is affecting the region and by the poor state of repair of the radio station's equipment.

The radio station's director said that she has only been given access to the information in the report via a telephone conversation she had with the fire chief. She added that the report actually does contain information saying that the fire was set intentionally. She also noted that she has been denied access to the legal case files. FOPEA has repeatedly asked provincial government representatives for access to the police and firefighters report but the response has been slow in coming and, to date, the request has yet not been fulfilled.

Roberto Brennan, San Luis National Radio's manager, told FOPEA that the situation is disconcerting, both with respect to the actual events themselves and with respect to the delays in the legal process. He also said that he is concerned for Niño's safety.

FOPEA calls on the San Luis government to ensure the safety of the radio station's director as well as the station's facilities and to immediately conduct an investigation into the incidents.

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