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Regional alliance of NGOs concerned over non-transparent allocation of broadcasting rights, media ownership concentration

(AMARC/IFEX) - The following is a 4 June 2007 AMARC press release:

Growing concern over concentration of, barriers to access to broadcasting frequencies

Americas, 4 June 2007 - On 2 June 2007, various non-governmental organizations concerned with freedom of expression and access to information in Mexico, Central America, and the Dominican Republic, formally submitted the Panama Declaration to the secretary general of the Organisation of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza.

The Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression and Information (Alianza Regional para la Libertad de la Expresión e Información), as the coalition of organisations calls itself, has highlighted for the OAS those freedom of expression issues in the Americas that most need addressing.

The group expressed its concerns on a variety of issues, including access to public information and the treatment of press offences as crimes, and warned that "in general, the allocation, renewal and non-renewal of frequency concessions or broadcasting licences for radio and television is done in a non-transparent, arbitrary or overly discretionary manner."

This situation is made worse by the "high concentration of media ownership, which results in a de facto restriction of pluralism and freedom of expression."

The Declaration expresses concern for the way in which the Venezuelan government, "while exercising its legitimate right to administer the broadcasting spectrum, has made unclear and discriminatory decisions on the renewal and non-renewal of licences". The Declaration also expresses satisfaction with "the ruling of the Mexican Supreme Court which declared as unconstitutional the automatic renewal of frequency concessions or broadcasting licences for radio and television, as foreseen in the Mexican media law; with this ruling, concentration of ownership of media outlets will be avoided."

On this topic, the Alliance also urges member states of the OAS to "condemn, as an affront to freedom of expression, as reflected in article 13 of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression, the allocation and renovation for radio and television broadcasting frequencies as a means by which to reward and punish media."

Signatories to the Declaration include: Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (APES) and PROBIDAD from El Salvador; Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) from Argentina; Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre) and Fundación Democracia Sin Fronteras from Honduras; Consejo Nacional de Periodismo from Panama; Participación Ciudadana (PC) and Fundación Institucionalidad y Justicia from the Dominican Republic; Libertad de Información - México A.C (LIMAC) and Fundación Prensa y Democracia (PRENDE) from Mexico; Fundación Proacceso from Chile; Fundación Violeta Barrios de Chamorro from Nicaragua; Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión (IPLEX) from Costa Rica; Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) from Peru; Fundación Debido Proceso Legal (DPLF), Fundación para las Américas and Open Society Institute from the US.

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