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Argentinian radio station set on fire, local mayor suspected

FOPEA condemns the fact that a fire was deliberately set at Radio Génesis in Ingeniero Juárez, in the northern part of Formosa province, in the early hours of 5 April 2013. The radio station was completely destroyed. The station's owner, Aníbal Palma, told FOPEA that he suspects those responsible are connected to the local and provincial authorities, and that the fire is likely connected to the station's work although he had no way of proving this.

The fire started at 3:30A.M. and destroyed the station in 20 minutes, but did not affect adjoining structures or result in any injuries. Because the local fire department does not have a fire engine, the fire was put out by Palma and his sister Liliana, using buckets of water. When the firefighters and police arrived, it was obvious the station could not be saved.

Palma told FOPEA that the metal door to the station had been broken and was open, and that the place had been doused with petrol. He said he did not have the money to repair and reopen the station.

Palma says he suspects local authorities were behind the fire because for some time he has been receiving threats over the station's reports of corruption by the mayor of Ingeniero Juárez, Cristino Vidal Mendoza. He added that Mendoza had recently told one of the station's journalists "you'll have to decide what to do, because the station doesn't have much time left." In August 2012, FOPEA reported on a violent attack against Palma.

Palma hosts a general information programme in the mornings, and has been criticised over his style of journalism and his well-known opposition to the current mayor. FOPEA believes that nothing, not even a media outlet's editorial line, justifies such an attack, and for that reason the organisation stands by Palma. FOPEA also calls on authorities to show their support for Palma and to engage actively in the defence of freedom of expression throughout the province.

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