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Death threats against radio station owner; media ownership too concentrated, warns PROBIDAD

(PROBIDAD/IFEX) - In a 17 January 2008 press release, spokespeople for radio station Radio Cadena Mi Gente condemned death threats made against one of the station's main stockholders, William Osmar Chamagua Morataya. The threats were made by telephone, twice to the station and once to his family's home. The last call was received on 16 January. The station's representatives fear that the threats are motivated by the media outlet's critical stance.

Chamagua Morataya, who has been living in the United States since 1980, frequently visits El Salvador. He and other investors also based in the United States decided to found Radio Cadena Mi Gente, which focuses on news and citizen participation and is broadcast at 700 AM in the country. It is one of the few media outlets in which government policies are openly criticised. Since it began operations, it has been re-broadcasting the audio portion of television interviews and later created a special programme hosted by Mauricio Funes, now a presidential candidate for an opposition party.

"I decided to invest not in a restaurant, not in a store, but rather in a media outlet, so it's hard to be received with a slap in the face, and even death threats, including against my family," said Chamagua Morataya at the press conference. He said that the threats against him are "infuriating, given that on many occasions President Antonio Saca and Vice President Ana Vilma de Escobar invited us, calling us 'far away brothers', to invest in El Salvador. I decided to take them at their word."

In El Salvador media ownership is highly concentrated and there is little pluralism in terms of the outlets' editorial perspectives. The president himself owns several radio stations, which in turn are part of an important block of media outlets that also includes television stations and newspapers, and are openly pro-government. As well, some analysts anticipate politically-motivated violence in 2008, due to the upcoming elections, which are expected to be closely contested.

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