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FOPEA concerned over threats against television station personnel

(FOPEA/IFEX) - FOPEA is concerned over repeated threatening telephone calls that have been received by personnel at Aire Visión Canal 5 television station in the province of Catamarca. Managers at the television station believe the threats are related to a video they publicised showing re-elected senator and former local governor Oscar Castillo, on a truck along with the current governor, Eduardo Brizuela del Moral, and the head of the city government, Ricardo Guzmán, giving money to several people during the closure of the campaign for the ruling Civic and Social Front (Frente Cívic y Social) party ( ).

On at least two occasions, 29 June and 8 July 2009, a man who did not identify himself phoned the television station and issued a warning regarding the airing of the video, entitled "Shameful buying of support with cash". In the first telephone call, the caller said, "Be careful, stop airing that video, things will go badly for you," and in the second he said, "Stop airing the video because you and your family are in danger . . ." Both telephone calls were received by the station's owner, Aldo Barros, who, on 13 July, filed a complaint with the judiciary in the capital of Catamarca.

Barros told FOPEA that he does not know exactly who is behind the telephone calls, but strongly believes that the threats are related to the airing of video both by the television station and local news websites. For his part, the Aire Visión Canal 5 news journalism director, Eduardo Molas, told FOPEA that journalists and workers at the television station have been the recipients of various threatening comments and indirect messages following the airing of the video, such as "don't go to the government building," and "be careful when you're in the streets." The television station personnel have not wanted to file complaints for fear of reprisals.

The spokesperson for Senator Casillo, Roberto Maique, told FOPEA the video magnified what was a small transaction in which 20 pesos were given to the drummer and the person who set up the fireworks at the event. He also said the television station's actions have been in retaliation for the fact that it has not received the government advertising contracts it has requested. With respect to this, Barros and Molas told FOPEA that they have indeed not received advertising contracts from the provincial government for quite some time and that they consider this to be a form of discrimination.

FOPEA is concerned over the threats received by the Aire Visión Canal 5 personnel and calls on the local authorities to conduct a prompt investigation in order to identify those responsible.

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