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GOVERNMENT "CRIMINALISES" FREE EXPRESSION BY TARGETING RADIO STATION

Tierra y Libertad is a community radio station in the northeast of Mexico that has for more than seven years provided the poorest neighbourhoods in Monterrey with info on workers' rights, health and legal assistance. But perhaps not for much longer, because the government says the station is operating without a licence. Employees are facing up to 12 years in prison and a fine of US$100,000 for operating illegally. ARTICLE 19 - Mexico, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) say it is an alarming case of the "criminalisation of free expression."

AMARC and ARTICLE 19 report that Tierra y Libertad had applied for a permit from the communications ministry back in November 2002, and have yet to receive a response. In June 2008, a contingent of more than 100 federal police officers surrounded the station and forced it to close.

In a joint statement, AMARC, ARTICLE 19 and RSF, as well as a handful of Mexican rights organisations, said, "The use of criminal action in place of administrative action, which is set out in the federal radio and television laws, shows a hardening and the start of a more repressive and persecutory policy against community radio stations in the country and is a serious step backwards for human rights."

The members have pointed out the real problems: that the authorities have "excessive discretion" in handling licence applications, and that the federal government refuses to recognise community radio broadcasting, even though it promised the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that it would create the conditions for community broadcasters to survive and thrive.

AMARC has penned 14 principles for democratic legislation on community broadcasting, which came out of an investigation on best practices in 26 countries. Read it here: http://tinyurl.com/5yymb4

For the English summary of the joint statement, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101714 and the full text (Spanish only), see: http://tinyurl.com/c86bju

(25 March 2009)

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