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RSF concerned over wave of attacks on media in northwestern Argentina

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern over the state of press freedom in northwestern Argentina after recent threats and attempts at censorship, including some criminal acts. These incidents point to serious problems for journalists in the region who choose to speak freely, especially about local authorities, RSF said.

"Despite the generally satisfactory state of press freedom in Argentina, many local media in La Rioja and Salta provinces still face more or less direct reprisals from local and provincial officials they criticise, some being the target of attacks or threats to withdraw government advertising," the worldwide press organisation said. "We hope these problems will be quickly resolved and the (perpetrators of the) attacks punished."

José Luis Campillay, editor of the privately-owned weekly "Chilecito", in the town of the same name, told RSF that one of his journalists who wrote a front-page exposé on fraud by provincial governor Luis Beder Herrera, got threatening anonymous phone calls on 9 November 2008, 48 hours after the report came out. His car was damaged by a brick and tampered with and a warning message left, which later appeared again when his home was damaged. Campillay said local authorities were "trying to make us bend but we're sticking to what we've reported."

Néstor Bosetti, head of the privately-owned station Radio Fénix, in La Rioja, the provincial capital of the same name, told RSF that the mother of one of his columnists, Ximena Marenco, had received telephone threats in late October and that the station had been "politically persecuted." Authorities effectively censored the paper in the last week of November by suspending government advertising, a key revenue source for local radio stations.

Bosetti said the government was trying to "smear" the station and its staff and that the provincial security and justice minister had accused him of having links with drug smugglers. "The government doesn't like it that people are allowed to say what they want on our programmes," he said.

An attempt was made to burn down the offices of Radio Uno, in the town of Joaquín V. González, in the far-northwestern province of Salta, on the night of 26 November, according to the Argentine Journalists Forum (FOPEA). Station owner Daniel Barboza, who lives with his family in the same building, surprised two people fleeing the scene who left behind petrol cans after setting fire to the premises, causing 20,000 pesos (approx. US$5,800, 4,600 Euros) in damages. He said the attack was linked to the station's strong criticism of the owner of another local radio station. He complained that provincial authorities, whom he had alerted of the attack, had given him no support.

After two journalists of the Buenos Aires economic daily "El Cronista", Enrique Llamas de Madariaga and Julio Villalonga, were assaulted on 24 October by TV station owner Daniel Vila, federal deputy Diana Beatriz Conti (of the ruling Justicialist Party) presented a draft resolution in the Chamber of Deputies that would protect journalists. "We haven't reached an agreement about this yet," she told Reporters Without Borders. "Party disputes are holding it up."

For further information on the attack on Radio Uno, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/98972

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