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Argentina19 July 2006

Another radio programme withdrawn under political pressure

Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its concern about the termination of Argentine radio and TV programmes under political pressure after ‘Voces de mi Tierra,’ a programme broadcast by two local radio stations in the far-south province of Santa Cruz, became the sixth programme to suffer this fate since the start of the year.

Presented for the past three years by journalist Pablo Lagalle, the programme was broadcast on Sundays by LU Provincia in the city of Santa Cruz and LRA 59 in the city of Gobernador Gregores.

It was withdrawn because of a report by Lagalle highlighting the public health dangers of the local mining industry. He said open-cast mining, the use of cyanide and the wasteful use of water - a key resource in Patagonia - caused a great deal of harm to the local population.

Lagalle told Reporters Without Borders that municipal councillor Juan Vásquez wrote to LRA59 directors Oscar Herrero and Sonia San Pedro requesting a recording of this edition of the programme. The management subsequently withdrew the programme altogether, without giving any clear reason for its decision.

14.06.06 - Tense standoff deepens between press and local authorities

Reporters Without Borders condemns press freedom violations in Quilmes, Buenos Aires province, which it said highlights growing tensions between the press and the authorities since the election of President Nestor Kirchner on 25 May 2003.

As the local opposition press protests at censorship and persecution against them by the authorities in Quilmes, the press freedom organisation made a new appeal to the president to guarantee the independence of the media.

Recently the mayor of Quilmes, Sergio Villordo, tried to close two privately-owned radio stations, FAN 103.9 and Radio Quilmes 106.9. In mid-May, government broadcast regulator COMFER abruptly withdrew their licences. The journalists appealed to the national congress and the chamber of deputies finally voted unanimously on 7 June urging COMFER to take the necessary steps to ensure the media’s continuity.

Pedro Navarro, director of Radio Quilmes, said that Sergio Villordo had reacted because of investigations carried out by the two media into municipal administration, particularly the use of public funds. Navarro added that the local authorities made it difficult for critical media to get access to official information.

Elsewhere on 19 May 2006, Gustavo Orlando, head of Radio Plus, and a journalist with the station, Néstor Carrigall, were attacked by two people in a car, who pointed a gun at them and threatened to kill them. They warned them they intended to get Radio Plus shut down and told them to stop demonstrating about censorship. A demonstration had been held the previous day in protest at the discrimination and persecution suffered by local media.

Gustavo Orlando and Néstor Carrigall complained to the Quilmes criminal court and asked the prosecutor to provide them with police protection.

9.06.06 - Support for journalists protesting against the government’s authoritarian tendencies

Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about the deterioration in relations between the government and press since Néstor Kirchner took over as president in May 2003 and the arbitrary sanctions that have been taken with increasing frequency against critical news media and journalists. These have included withdrawal of programmes, firings and discriminatory allocation of state advertising.

“Political pressure from the president’s supporters and associates continue to limit the freedom of expression of some journalists in both the state and privately-owned media,” the organisation said. “We call on the Argentine government to stop this behaviour and we voice our support for the journalists who are currently protesting against the government’s attempts to silence its critics.”

In one of the most recent cases, Marcela Pacheco, the presenter of the midnight news programme on the state-owned Canal 7 TV station, was fired on 6 June for criticising a rally organised by President Kirchner on 25 May to mark the third anniversary of his installation.

The Perfil publishing house and daily newspaper brought a court action on 31 May accusing the government of discriminating against the daily Perfil and the magazines Noticias and Fortuna by not allocating them any advertising. Leading media figures gathered the same day in support of this initiative, accusing the federal government of assigning advertising in a biased manner and thereby restricting access to official information.

The current affairs programme Séptimo Día on local radio station Lu12 Radio Río Gallegos in the southern province of Santa Cruz was terminated on 3 May as a result of pressure from the deputy governor Carlos Sancho. The programme’s presenter, Héctor Barabino, said this followed a phone call to Lu12 owner María Eugen ia Sanhueza from an official close to Sancho saying all state advertising would be withdrawn if the programme continued. The station earns 28,000 pesos (about 7,000 euros) a month from state advertising.

The station’s management ended the programme after Barabino refused to moderate its critical analysis of local and national news.

The suspension of two other radio and TV programmes following pressure from local and national politicians was already criticised by Reporters Without Borders in releases on 5 January and 21 April.

The organisation has also voiced surprise on several occasions at the way the access of journalists to government information and senior officials, including the president, has been obstructed.

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