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Argentina11 October 2006

Radio broadcast pulled because of blackmail by president of provincial parliament

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm at the banning of a political broadcast after the president of the Chamber of Deputies for the province of Buenos Aires Ismael Passaglia threatened to withdraw public advertising from the station.

The programme in question, “Recorriendo el Espinel” is broadcast by LT24 radio in San Nicolás and presented by journalist Verónica Lassalle. It is the fifth time that the radio has pulled a broadcast under political pressure since the beginning of the year.

“The withdrawal of the broadcast presented by Verónica Lassalle on 4 October 2006 constitutes a serious violation of press freedom, all the more worrying because it is not the first of its kind. The explosion of censorship of broadcasts under pressure from locally elected officials, who have neither the competence nor the authority to intervene on an editorial decision, is effectively an attempt to subjugate the broadcast media,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We urge the federal authorities to intervene to ensure the respect of constitutional rights and freedom of expression and information, and the courts to repair the damage caused to the station,” the organisation added.

Presenter Verónica Lassalle was told by the head of LT24, Aldo Ramini on 4 October that her programme “Recorriendo el Espinel” was going to be pulled from the programming. The station head gave her to understand that the tone of her programme was “antagonistic” and that keeping it would lose the radio 3,600 euros worth of official advertising. The president of the Chamber has been blackmailing the station for the past three months by threatening to withdraw this amount unless Verónica Lassalle shut up.

“For a year, Passaglia has been making our work difficult and has been withholding information to our disadvantage. He harasses us because we criticise his government’s management, which we all do in the same way,” the journalist told Reporters Without Borders. She said she regretted that she had not been able to go on air to explain to listeners why the broadcast was pulled. She thanked them on her blog, El Informante. She said she had received other job offers but had not received any expression of solidarity from a single politician.

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