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Media worker injured in arson attack, radio station forced off air

(FOPEA/IFEX) - At approximately 2:00 a.m. on 24 August, journalist Carlos Villanueva's home suffered an arson attack. The journalist owns the FM Cerrillos radio station, which he operates from his home. The incident took place in San José de los Cerrillos, located 15 kilometres from the capital of the province of Salta. Villanueva's son, Enzo, who is also a media worker, suffered burns to his knees and hands while trying extinguish the fire. He was hospitalised for treatment and his condition has been listed stable. The attackers stole broadcasting equipment from the radio station, forcing it off the air.

Carlos Villanueva said the head of the local government, Rubén Corimayo, was behind the attack because he is displeased with the journalist's criticism of the local government administration. When contacted by FOPEA, Corimayo denied having anything to do with the attack and expressed his support for the Villanueva family. He said the attack was an isolated incident and that he had asked the police to launch an investigation to determine who was responsible for the fire.

The perpetrators of the arson entered the journalist's house and, after stealing a transmitter, threw gasoline near the family's car. The ensuing fire destroyed the car, along with parts of the garage in which the car was parked and an area of the radio station, which is located adjacent to the garage.

Firefighters who put out the fire said it had been set intentionally. This was later confirmed by the Provincial Police's Criminalistics Division.

Villanueva filed a criminal complaint immediately after the fire was extinguished. He estimated that the damages caused by the fire were in the vicinity of 65,000 pesos (approx. US$16,000) between the value of the car and the transmitter and the damages to his home and other facilities.

FOPEA expresses its solidarity with the Villanueva family and calls on the municipal and provincial authorities to ensure that journalists are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisal.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)
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