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"Dirty War" generals sentenced, multiple radio stations attacked

Rodolfo Walsh was murdered in 1977, a day after he published his
Rodolfo Walsh was murdered in 1977, a day after he published his "Open Letter from a Writer to the Military Junta"

Over the past two months, numerous radio stations have been violently attacked in separate incidents and through various means - from arson, to armed hold-ups, to vandalism - pointing to systematic efforts to censor the airwaves across Argentina, report the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Meanwhile, FOPEA expresses "profound satisfaction" after the killers of a journalist in 1977 were finally brought to justice.

The fact that the attackers have thus far operated with impunity casts a shadow over the uplifting news of the sentencing of some of those responsible for killing journalists and civilians during Argentina's "Dirty War" in the 1970s and 1980s. On 26 October, 16 former military and police officers were sentenced for the murder of just some of the 30,000 murdered, report FOPEA and RSF. Between 1974 and 1983, 112 journalists were assassinated or "disappeared" in Argentina, including writer journalist Rodolfo Walsh. His murderers, Alfredo Astiz and Jorge Acosta, received life sentences.

While the government of Argentina is to be commended for finally striking down the military officers' amnesty and bringing them to trial, a 30-year wait for justice in the executions and murders of tens of thousands is simply too long. It is one of many atrocious examples hitting home the importance of the International Day to End Impunity on 23 November.

Meanwhile, there have been no reports of arrests in any of the four recent attacks on radio stations in Argentina.

On 10 September, two assailants arrived at the doors of FM Pajsachama offices in Santiago del Estero province saying they wanted to deliver a message. Once inside, they pulled out guns and locked staff in a room as they poured acid on equipment and cut cables before fleeing, FOPEA reports. FM Pajsachama is a small rural station of 15 staff that focuses on the rights of indigenous people and cannot easily resume broadcasting on its own. FOPEA is calling for the authorities to replace the equipment while RSF has surveyed the damage and is helping the radio station relaunch.

On 15 September, the main TV and radio broadcasting terminal of Norte Visión Satelital in Salta province was set on fire, causing a four-hour shutdown, according to CJFE, RSF and FOPEA. On 30 September, a more serious arson attack took place at radio station 93.3 FM in Buenos Aires province, the IFEX members report. According to FOPEA, the station was completely destroyed by an unidentified, masked arsonist, who was captured on security cameras. Another station housed in the building, 100.5 FM, was forced to go off air due to the fire but remains intact, FOPEA reports.

Just four days later, Norte Visión Satelital, which owns both radio and TV stations, was again attacked, as unidentified vandals cut the cables that held up its antenna - a move that took determination and planning, owner Daniel Longarela noted in an interview with RSF. The antenna fell over and damaged other antennas, causing 15 stations in total to go off the air, according to FOPEA. Longarela told RSF he cannot think of any motives for attacking the station.

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