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Two radio stations off the air following robbery, vandalism

(FOPEA/IFEX) - FOPEA condemns the vandalism and theft, respectively, that have left a Radio Nacional affiliate and one of Argentina's most prominent community radio stations unable to broadcast.

On the morning of 30 November 2010, unidentified individuals broke into facilities belonging to the Radio Nacional affiliate in San Martín de los Andes, in the province of Neuquén, and destroyed the station's AM frequency broadcasting equipment. The value of the equipment is estimated to be in the range of 20,000 pesos (approx. US$5,000). As a result of the vandalism, the station could no longer broadcast and is not expected to return to the air until 7 December.

Radio Nacional director María Seoane told FOPEA that the actions against the station were clearly an attack aimed at impeding its AM broadcasts since the perpetrators knew what to destroy in order to take the station off the air and left behind objects of value. She also noted that the attack took place just days after the station had installed a more powerful AM transmitter that allowed for signal coverage to a larger area.

A complaint was failed with the Federal Police, but, to date, the authorities have no information regarding who the perpetrators of the crime might have been.

In a separate incident, on the morning of 18 November, broadcasting equipment belonging to the Nueva Generación FM community radio station in San Martín, in the province of Buenos Aires, was stolen. The station's director, Luis Medina, told FOPEA that the thieves stole the broadcasting equipment while leaving behind other items of value, such as computers. As such, the robbery is believed to have been aimed at hindering the station's broadcasts.

The radio station has been operating for 21 years and has nine permanent employees, plus another 30 to 40 independent collaborators, all of whom have been left in an uncertain employment situation since it is not known how long it will take to obtain the equipment required to allow the station to return to the air. It is estimated that replacement of the stolen equipment would cost in the range to 25,000 to 30,000 pesos (approx. US$6,250 to 7,500).

Medina told FOPEA that they cannot think of any particular suspect or motive for the crime, but that the equipment cannot be used by another radio station because of the legal registration associated with it. A complaint about the robbery was filed with the authorities.

FOPEA is concerned over these two actions against radio stations and views them as attacks on freedom of expression since they have resulted in limitations being placed on both dissemination and access to information. The organisation calls on the authorities to fully investigate both incidents and expresses its solidarity with the workers at both stations.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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