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Community radio station considers investigation attempt an intimidation tactic

(AMARC/IFEX) - On the evening of 22 July 2008, several individuals who identified themselves as officials from the Telecommunications Sub-Secretariat (Subsecretaría de Telecomunicaciones, SUBTEL) showed up at the Pedro Maniqueo Cultural Centre in the La Victoria area of Santiago, Chile. The cultural centre is home to the Radio Primero de Mayo community radio station. The supposed SUBTEL officials said they were there to take photographs of the radio station's equipment since "they knew that the station was broadcasting."

According to a press release issued by the radio station, the only person on the premises at the time of the incident stopped them from entering the station, asked them to show their credentials and told them she could not let them in since she was just there to clean the offices. The individuals in questions showed her SUBTEL and Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry (Ministerio de Transporte y Telecomunicaciones) identification documents and harassed her for nearly 20 minutes while trying to gain access to the station.

After the radio station's director, Leopoldo Sarmiento, was informed of the incident, he communicated directly with the head of SUBTEL's Investigations Office, Francisco Muñoz Mercado, to ask for an explication of what had taken place. Muñoz Mercado said that no orders for investigations had been issued for 22 July, that the name of the person who had identified himself as a SUBTEL official was not on the list of his employees and that all SUBTEL vehicles have insignia on them identifying them as government property.

Radio Primero de Mayo is a legally recognized community radio station. It belongs to the category of minimal coverage radio stations, which is the only category allowed under the current telecommunications law for local stations broadcasting information about social issues. According to information provided by Radio Primero de Mayo, the station is known for its "commitment to social issues, specifically the fight of the Mapuche people and their community identity, and labour issues."

The radio station's staff have expressed their concern about the recent incident because "it represent another in a string of searches, police citations and general persecution of popular radio stations, which by way of either legal or illegal means are pressured by the authorities and powerful individuals in the local community because they are broadcasting information that gives the community a different view of issues." According to the radio station's staff, these types of incidents are aimed at intimidating community radio stations and "seriously affect the rights of all Chileans to communication and to inform themselves of issues that the other media outlets hide."

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