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Radio Bemba case transferred to Sonora authorities; transparency organisation denied information on project, its director harassed

(ARTICLE 19/CENCOS/IFEX) - The Governance Secretariat's (Secretaría de Gobernación) undersecretary in charge of judicial and human rights issues has transferred the cases regarding the harassment of workers of the Radio Bemba community radio station and of Sonora Ciudadana, a civil society organisation, to the relevant agencies of the state of Sonora.

The Governance Secretariat's Office for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (Subsecretaría de Asuntos Jurídicos y Derechos Humanos ) turned over the file on these cases, which was created in response to a request by ARTICLE 19, to the Sonora state government's General Secretariat, the Attorney General's Office and the state Human Rights Commission, as well as to the public security secretary and the mayor of Hermosillo, the state capital.

The actions against the Radio Bemba workers took place during protests involving community members who oppose the Música Arte y Exposiciones (Musas) project, which entails the construction of a cultural centre. The project would affect the Villa de Seris park in Hermosillo. When Radio Bemba workers were reporting live on the violent eviction of protestors from the park, municipal police officers assaulted them.

Meanwhile, Sonora Ciudadana, a non-governmental human rights organisation specialising in transparency and accountability issues, which has been investigating the Musas project due to the scarcity of information about the project's financing, has also experienced harassment. The organisation has presented 68 requests for information under the Transparency Law, of which 47 have been rejected, 12 are pending and only nine have received full responses. Within this framework, the organisation received, through the comments space on its website, the following message: "I am pleased to know that you will soon be out of circulation. It's about time someone did something to stop you."

It is important to note that the Musas project will cost 300 million pesos (approx. US$ 30 million) to construct. As part of the project, the Sonoran government wants to build a Villa de Seris tourist corridor, which will include 20,000 square metres of buildings for an exposition centre, a theatre, a museum and a tourist information centre. Environmental considerations have not been taken adequately into account in the planning for the project, which has proceeded with an absolute lack of transparency. In addition, access to information has been obstructed and freedom of expression attacked during the project's development.

Guillermo Noriega, a collaborator with Radio Bemba and the director of Sonora Ciudadana, has been following the Musas project and other issues related to transparency and accountability in the state government. As a result of his work, Noriega has also been subjected to attacks and false accusations by local media outlets. Noriega is known as an information rights activist and has collaborated on several occasions with ARTICLE 19's projects in Mexico.

ARTICLE 19 and CENCOS express their concern for the safety of human rights defenders and of free information and environmental activists in Sonora state.

Updates the Radio Bemba case:

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