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Community radio stations are in need of protection, concludes AMARC mission

(AMARC/IFEX) - A delegation of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - Latin America and the Caribbean (AMARC-ALC) travelled to Colombia from 10 to 16 May 2010, together with representatives of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The mission's aim was to examine the state of freedom of expression and evaluate the development of community-based radio stations in the country. It also looked at the situation of indigenous groups and people of African descent.

Members of the mission, which was led by AMARC-ALC Vice-President María Pía Matta, met with journalists, researchers, academics, representatives of non-governmental organisations and officials in Bogotá, Popayán (capital of Cauca), and Cartagena.

The delegation found that communities are still plagued by violence stemming from the actions of the State security forces, the paramilitaries and the guerrillas. None of these groups differentiate between military and civilian targets. This situation results in human rights violations and restrictions on free expression.

The recent presidential elections of 30 May were marked by absenteeism, with only 47% of voters heading to the polls. The second and deciding poll will be held on 20 June.

In frontline areas particularly close to the conflict, labour leaders, indigenous communities and journalists can fall prey to a number of dangers. They may be vulnerable to coercion by guerrilla groups or be suspected of being guerrilla sympathisers and be targeted by the paramilitaries or the State security forces.

Given the tenuous human rights situation in the country, the mission concluded that there is an urgent need to safeguard community-based radio stations.

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