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Argentina under fire for muzzling press

  |   March 15, 2012 at 9:47 AM
BUENOS AIRES, March 15 (UPI) -- Argentina is facing new accusations it reached a low in trying to control the media and suppress dissenting voices.

Spanish journalist Alberto Padilla, a former CNN reporter, says an Argentine television channel received government orders to suspend a program minutes before he was to go on air for a live interview.

An order to stop the program came directly from Argentine Federal Planning and Public Investment Julio Miguel de Vido, Padilla said in comments widely published and broadcast in the non-government media.

The broadcast suspension order Tuesday apparently had more to do with what preceded the planned interview on the C5N channel than with Padilla himself, the reports indicated.

Channel presenter Marco Longobardi was interviewing former government minister Alberto Fernandez, a critic of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, when the transmission was interrupted in the middle of a follow-up question.

"It was a brutal act of censorship, I have 15 years in this trade and have never seen anything like it," Padilla said.

The Mexican-born journalist is a recognized media figure in Latin America and worked previously at the CNN.

The following morning broadcaster Infobae Group, owner of the channel, issued an apology for what it called "excess of formalism." The channel previously explained it suspended the broadcast because Longobardi's program had exceeded the allotted time.

"I was the third guest of the program, after Alberto Fernandez and was ready with microphone and all," Padilla countered, challenging the broadcaster's version.

The transmission of the interview with Fernandez was interrupted while the politician was talking and for some time the station began broadcasting music and commercials while the image showed Fernandez still in conversation with the presenter, Mercopress reported.

"Longonbardi stands up to talk to his production team and then they approach me, since I was to follow and apologized and said the program had been put off," Padilla said.

"Nobody knew why, they were all confused, evidently it was for something that was said on the air," added Padilla, who then asked what was the motive for the cut.

"I asked specifically who gave the order and the production team said the order came directly from Minister De Vido," said Padilla who later wrote on his Twitter account that removing Longobardi was a "direct order from President Cristina Fernandez."

"De Vido is not going to call a television studio unless he has strict orders from the President. The ultimate responsibility rests with the president of the country," Padilla said during a later television interview.

Before Longobardi's program was taken off the air, the former minister spoke about the strong language the Argentine president used to refer to two journalists from Clarin and La Nacion newspapers. Reports said the president accused the journalists of anti-Semitism and of being Nazis.

Clarin and La Nacion have been reporting on the president's style of government and her inner circle of power brokers and elite decision-makers.

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