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News programme's signal cut off in Quintana Roo

(CEPET/IFEX) - Former employees of the "Código 9" news programme, broadcast by Zoom TV television station in Chetumal, Quintana Roo state, southern Mexico, have spoken out against the cutting of the programme's signal without any apparent prior notification. They attribute the cutting of the signal to reports that were broadcast on the programme regarding allegations of corruption by local authorities.

Alberto Joaquín Quiroz Cervantes, the host of "Código 9", told CEPET that Zoom TV has filed a complaint against Cablemás, the cable television company that provided the news programme's signal. Quiroz Cervantes said the complaint was lodged in Mexico City and was based on incompletion of the contract with Cablemás since the contract carried through until November 2008, whereas the signal was cut on 31 August.

The news programme began broadcasting in November 2007 and employed 20 people at the time of its suspension, Quiroz Cervantes said. All of the employees signed a letter condemning the suspension.

Quiroz Cervantes attributed the cutting of the programme's signal to political pressures. He said that the programme reported on allegations that local government representatives had purchased 25 new vehicles using public funds, in addition to a truck worth more than US$50,000 for the head of the state's Congressional High Commission. The programme also broadcasted accusations about problems at the Promocasa company, saying that the company was building houses of inferior quality that were unable to withstand the destruction caused by tropical storm Arturo. Promocasa is owned by businessman and former secretary of state Juan Manuel Mercader Rodríguez. Quiroz Cervantes added that the programme has reported on allegations of fraud in the administration of former governor Joaquín Hendricks Díaz and it documented the diversion of funds by Guadalupe Novelo Espadas, leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido de la Revolución Institucional - PRI) in Benito Juárez, Cancún. The PRI is one of the most powerful political parties in the country and Novelo Espadas was accused of having used public funds for personal medical expenses.

Quiroz Cervantes said that, before the news programme's signal was cut, both he and Zoom TV owner Gonzalo Hermosillo received threatening telephone calls from unidentified individuals who made references to the information the programme was broadcasting.

CEPET attempted to contact Cablemás to obtain more information about the cutting of the news programme's signal but it has not received a reply from the cable company.

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