20 August 2008


In Mexico, Guatemala and Chile, community radio stations have recently come under pressure. Meanwhile, Uruguay is bringing its Community Broadcast Law to life by allocating bandwidth to community television.

Shots were fired on 27 July 2008 at the homes of two community radio journalists in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Unknown individuals fired at the homes of Melesio Melchor Ángeles and Jorge Aragón Martínez, contributors to the Radio Zaachila community radio station. Cartridges of 9 mm, reportedly used solely by the Mexican army, were found outside.

The two journalists, who also belong to a Zaachila teachers' group, face criminal actions involving a June demonstration that prevented a visit by Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz. Resignation of the governor was a key demand of teacher-led strikes in 2006.

In a joint action, ARTICLE 19, the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) called on the Oaxaca government to punish the assailants and protect Radio Zaachila members. They also demanded an end to "the climate of impunity" for aggression against community and other media that has made Mexico dangerous for journalists.

In early June, scores of heavily armed federal police officers violently burst into the Tierra y Libertad community radio station in the northeastern city of Monterrey, seized its equipment and forced it to close. Police said the low-power station was operating without a licence, but AMARC and ARTICLE 19 reported that Tierra y Libertad had applied for a permit in 2002 - and had not received a response.

On 18 August, an international mission to Mexico of 13 groups, including IFEX members, reported that "a shocking culture of impunity has led to the number of murders [of journalists] going up even as the killings of media staff in other Latin American countries go down." The mission included representatives of ARTICLE 19, AMARC, RSF, the International Press Institute (IPI); the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) in Colombia, as well as UNESCO, the Open Society Foundation (OSF) and International Media Support (IMS).

In Guatemala, federal agents and soldiers closed four community radio stations in the contentious central department of San Marcos on 29 July. Radio Audioritmos, Radio Súper Éxitos, Radio Activa, and Radio Quetzalí were ordered off the air for operating illegally, reports NoticiasDeMiGente.com. San Marcos is the centre of indigenous protests against international mining developments.

In Chile, AMARC reported that the premises of La Voz community radio station in Santiago had been searched several times by investigative police since 30 June. And on 22 July, individuals who identified themselves as telecommunications officials harassed staff at the Radio Primero de Mayo community station.

Ironically, AMARC says, the Chilean government has been drafting legislation to facilitate the legal status of community radio stations and provide better operating conditions.

Meanwhile, Uruguay's communications regulator announced that three of nine new ultra-high frequency (UHF) bands being allocated for land-based, open digital television services will be reserved for community stations. Four of the other six channels will be private, and two will be operated by public television.

Provision for community radio and television frequencies was made in December 2007 when the community broadcasting law (Ley 18.232 de Radiodifusión Comunitaria) was approved.

Visit these links:
- Shots fired in Oaxaca: http://tinyurl.com/59rsb6- Mexico closes Monterrey stations (June): http://tinyurl.com/6dnzm4- Guatemalan stations closed (Spanish): http://tinyurl.com/6zlppn- Guatemalan radio journalist's home fired upon: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95840/- Pressure on Chilean stations: http://tinyurl.com/5c6n8wand http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95593/- Uruguay allocates bandwidth: http://tinyurl.com/637wzk- CENCOS on Mexico mission: http://cencos.org/en/node/19231- IMS page on Mexico mission: http://www.i-m-s.dk/?q=node/358- AMARC: http://legislaciones.item.org.uy/index?q=node/714- ARTICLE 19 on impunity in Mexico: http://tinyurl.com/5sarjt- Mexican human rights media agency raided: http://tinyurl.com/5osag3- Soldiers beat Mexican journalist: http://tinyurl.com/6pb2awPhoto: Felicitas Martínez Sánchez (left) and Teresa Bautista Merino (right), Oaxaca community radio journalists murdered in April 2008. Courtesy of Indybay.org/Bart Evans

(20 August 2008)

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