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Argentina5 January 2006

Public radio station drops programme on “order from above”

Reporters Without Borders voiced astonishment today at the state-owned Radio Nacional’s decision to suddenly drop José “Pepe” Eliaschev’s programme “Esto que pasa” on 30 December and called on the government to give an explanation.

“State news media are not there to be given orders,” the press freedom organisation said. “The only explanation Eliaschev got for his removal was that an ‘order came from above.’ If this is true, it constitutes an act of censorship. Politicians in power have no right to meddle with a news media’s programming, even a public one’s.”

Reporters Without Borders added that, in view of the political and media outcry about this case, it has written to presidential chief of staff Alberto Fernández asking him to provide an explanation.

Five minutes after finishing his programme on 30 December, Eliaschev got a call from Radio Nacional director general Adelina Olga “Mona” Moncalvillo telling him his programme had been dropped from the new year’s schedule. He told Reporters Without Borders: “She said to me. ‘It’s over.’ I did not even get a chance to say goodbye to my listeners.” He has been presenting the programme since 2001.

By way of an explanation, Moncalvillo told him that an “order came from above,” alluding to Fernández and the secretary in charge of the media, Enrique Albistur, to whom the Radio Nacional management reports.

“This is a case of censorship, pure and simple,” Eliaschev told Reporters Without Borders. He also pointed out that a clause in his contract said “a minimum notice of a week” was required for any changes. “This clause was not respected,” he said.

Eliaschev suggested that the reason for his dismissal and the cancellation of his programme was the fact that “each week I pointed out that President Néstor Kirchner never gave a news conference, something which I considered unacceptable.”

In a report about the case, the daily newspaper La Nación said that the Association of Argentine Press Entities was very critical of the president’s staff, which is well-known for its poor relations with the media. “The government has not changed its approach as regards the media, despite the criticism it has received for its tendency to silence dissenting voices and those that contradict its views.”

FOPEA, a forum for independent journalism, voiced concern about “the growing pressure from the government on journalists and the media.”

Several opposition parties, including the Radical Civic Union (UCR), the Socialist Party and the Alternative for a Republic of Equals (ARI), condemned the case as “a serious attack on freedom of expression.”

Contacted by Reporters Without Borders, neither the Radio Nacional director general nor the president’s chief of staff wanted to comment.

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