Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today for press freedom in northwestern Argentina after recent threats and censorship efforts, including some criminal acts. They showed the serious problems of journalists there who chose to speak freely, especially about local authorities, it said.
“Despite generally satisfactory press freedom in Argentina, many local media in La Rioja and Salta provinces still face more or less direct reprisals from local and provincial officials they criticise or else yield to attacks against them or threats to withdraw government advertising,” the worldwide press organisation said. “We hope these problems will be quickly resolved and the attacks punished.”
José Luis Campillay, editor of the privately-owned weekly Chilecito, in the town of the same name, told Reporters Without Borders that one of his journalists who wrote a front-page exposé of fraud by provincial governor Luis Beder Herrera, got threatening anonymous phone calls on 9 November, 48 hours after the report came out. His car was damaged by a brick and tampered with and a warning message left, which later appeared again when his home was damaged. Campillay said local authorities were “trying to make us bend but we're sticking to what we've reported.”
Néstor Bosetti, head of the privately-owned station Radio Fénix, in the provincial capital of the same name, told Reporters Without Borders that the mother of one of his columnists, Ximena Marenco, had received telephone threats in late October and the station had been “politically persecuted.” The authorities had effectively censored the paper in the last week of November by suspending official advertising, a key revenue source for local radio stations.
Bosetti said the government was trying to “smear” the station and its staff and the provincial security and justice minister had accused him of having links with drug smugglers. “The government doesn't like it that people are allowed to say what they want on our programmes,” he said.
An attempt was made to burn down the offices of Radio Uno, in the town of Joaquín V. González, in the far-northwestern province of Salta, on the night of 26 November, according to the Argentine Journalists Forum (Fopea). Station owner Daniel Barboza, who lives with his family in the same building, surprised two people who fled leaving behind petrol cans after setting fire to the premises, causing 20,000 pesos (€4,600) of damage. He said the attack was was linked to the station's strong criticism of the owner of another local radio station. He complained that provincial authorities, who he had alerted, had not given him support.
After two journalists of the Buenos Aires economic daily El Cronista, Enrique Llamas de Madariaga and Julio Villalonga, were physically attacked on 24 October by TV station owner Daniel Vila, federal deputy Diana Beatriz Conti (of the ruling Justicialist Party) presented a draft resolution in the Chamber of Deputies on 24 October to protect journalists. “We don't yet have agreement about this,” she told Reporters Without Borders. “Party disputes are holding it up.”