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CENCOS, AMARC and ARTICLE 19 call on Congress to amend media law, facilitate emergence and survival of community media

(CENCOS/IFEX) - The following is a 21 June 2007 CENCOS press release:

Media organisations request legislation to promote community media
Congress has the historic opportunity to secure informational pluralism
Free expression organisations call for the democratisation of media regulations

Mexico City, 21 June 2007 - National and international freedom of expression organisations are urging the Mexican Congress to proceed with a major reform of the Radio, Television and Telecommunications Law (Ley Federal de Radio y Televisión y de Telecomunicaciones).

The reform would safeguard media pluralism in the country through the creation of a truly autonomous media regulatory body, and by establishing a secure foundation for socially-oriented and community-based media, as well as recognising citizens' rights, such as the right of reply.

In a press conference, AMARC-Mexico, ARTICLE 19-Mexico, and CENCOS stated that federal legislators have been presented with an historic opportunity to facilitate the democratization of media in Mexico, thanks to the recent Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) ruling that declared unconstitutional various 2005 and 2006 amendments to the Radio and Television Law. Congress passed these amendments, which favoured commercial media outlets over others, without consulting all stakeholders.

AMARC, ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS emphasized the need to guarantee a secure foundation for the dignified survival of media with social goals. They noted that, due to legislation in effect to date that allows for governmental discretion and favours media outlets run for profit, there are only 13 citizen-controlled radio stations in Mexico. Indeed, Mexico ranks among the lowest of all countries worldwide when it comes to pluralism in radio and television.

The organisations also stated that, in not recognising community-run media, and in failing to provide it a sound legal base to ensure its existence, the Mexican state is betraying its international responsibilities, violating not only the rights of society in general to freedom of expression and access to information, but denying these rights especially to the most vulnerable members of society. Indeed, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission has recommended to the Mexican government on various occasions that it bring its legislation into conformity with inter-American human rights standards by establishing equitable and democratic guidelines to ensure the emergence and survival of community-run media.

The articles of Mexican law that create and maintain inequality among different kinds of broadcasters (concession-holders, non-profits, licensees, and socially-oriented media, including state-owned media) must be amended. Recognition must be given to community media, which have a social role and are not state-owned, but rather belong to communities and citizens.

The organisations also called for the legal recognition of means by which community media can fundraise through non-profit activities in order to attain financial sustainability. This is particularly important given the impending shift to digitally-based information, which will require substantial economic investment.

ARTICLE 19
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC