Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

Radio station and Bolivian journalist set ablaze

12 November 2012

A Bolivian radio station was set on fire on Oct. 29, and days later the country’s police say that they have detained three suspects.

Fernando Vidal, 78, is the owner and editor of Radio Popular in Yacuiba, near the Argentine border and was interviewing two women about drug smuggling along the border when the attack occurred.

Reports say that at approximately 10:30 a.m., four masked men entered the station with gasoline canisters, poured it over equipment and Vidal himself and lit the fire. The owner was placed in intensive care with severe burns on his head, chest, stomach and arms.

IPI reported that Bolivian media reported that Vidal’s screams for water could be heard through the radio feed until the fire cut the broadcast.

Vidal’s technical assistant, Karen Delgado, was also injured during the raid and is reportedly being treated at a local hospital. Witnesses said that the entire station was destroyed.

“This chilling attack is one of the worst instances of violence against journalists in Bolivia in recent years,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Adviser to Amnesty International in an interview with Notitas de Noticias.

Three suspects were arrested in suspicion to being connected with the attack, according to an Oct. 30 Reporters Without Borders report. The three men were Eduardo Vargas, Juan José Camacho and Jairo Sejas Chavarría, and all had police records.

Esteban Farfán Romero, Radio Popular journalist and Vidal’s son-in-law, said that he believes two Tarija department government officials were behind the attack. Interior minister Carlos Romero supports the theory, Reporters Without Borders wrote.

Vidal’s programming that day was dedicated to discussing local contraband issues.

Bolivia has seen its share of attacks against the press in this year alone. Santa Cruz Mayor Percy Fernández, for example, said publically that he wished to see journalists from El Deber newspaper “buried two meters underground,” according to an IPI article.

Both IPI and Reporters Without Borders denounce the attack against Vidal and Delgado and wish both journalists a speedy recovery, which Global Journalist echoes as well.

By Raven Maragh.

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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