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Government delays granting of licences to community media outlets as a form of control, says senator

(CEPET/IFEX) - Senator Carlos Sotelo García, the president of the Congress's Radio, Television and Cinematography Commission, has said that for the last two years the Interior Secretariat (Secretaría de Gobernación) has failed to grant licences to 140 community radio and television station.

In an interview, the senator, who belongs to the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD), said that the excessive delay in granting licences to alternative media outlets is due to a desire on the part of the government to control the media, especially taking into consideration that the Federal Telecommunications Commission (Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones, Cofetel) expressed a favorable opinion with respect to the licensing applications in question.

Sotelo García added that the congressional commission over which he presides is analysing the possibility of removing the granting of telecommunications licences from the duties of the Interior Secretariat. "They are shutting down community media outlets, saying that they are operating without a licence, but what they fail to say is that they have not acted on the media outlets' applications for licences," the senator said.

Sotelo García also said that the Federal Attorney General's Office (Procuraduría General de la República) has begun to selectively target community radio stations, dismantling only those that are critical of the government rather than all stations that are operating without a licence.

On 19 May 2009, the Interior Secretariat cancelled it's participation in the presentation of a manual covering the procedures required for indigenous communities to obtain broadcasting licences.

In an interview, Erick Huerta Velásquez, the assistant coordinator of the Diversity, Equality and Sustainability Networks (Redes por la Diversidad, Equidad y Sustentabilidad), which organised the event, said that indigenous community radio stations reflect the country's diversity and should be supported by the government. He noted that 200 indigenous community radio stations are operating without licences and added that the government has opted to "criminalize" communication. As an example, he referred to several cases in which community radio stations are facing criminal charges for operating without a licence.

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