Monday, July 03, 2006

Why would anybody want to burn down a community radio station?

Community radio station razed down by masked men

BAGUIO CITY (July 2) � Radyo Cagayano, a community radio station based in Baggao, Cagayan, was totally burned down before dawn today (Sunday, July 2), by eight bonnet-masked armed men, a local Baggao citizen today reported.

The arsonists allegedly entered the compound at around 2 a.m., poured gasoline into the transmitter and booth facilities, and set them on fire.

The arsonists also blindfolded, muzzled and hogtied six radio staffers who were staying in the same compound. The staffers were identified as Susan Mapa, radio station manager, and volunteers Erik Ayudan, Arnold Agaraan, Armalyn Badua, Arlyn Areta, and Joy Marcos. They suffered minor bruises.

The Cagayan provincial peasant alliance KAGIMUNGAN condemned the razing of Radio Cagayano and the assault on its staffers as a brazen attack against press freedom and as part of the continuing harassment against local peasant organizations, which are reportedly supportive of the radio station.

KAGIMUNGAN pointed to Army units of the 17th IB (under the 5th Infantry Division), which has a heavy presence in Cagayan, as the culprits.

It will be recalled that four farmer-leaders of the local KAGIMUNGAN chapter in Baggao were attacked with bolos in 2002, allegedly by Army soldiers manning a checkpoint, just after they attended ground-breaking ceremonies for the newly-constructed building that was to house the station facility.

The radio facility is reportedly a joint project of the local mayor and KAGIMUNGAN. The project was initiated in 2002 with government funding facilitated by Bayan Muna. After many delays and harassment, the facility had just started broadcast operations last May.#

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