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Federal authorities raid radio station, force it off the air

(CEPET/IFEX) - Otho Valles Baca, the licence holder for XEJS Cadena Radiodifusora de Chihuahua, which operates in the city of Parral, Chihuahua state, in northern Mexico, reported that, on 15 July 2009, federal police raided the station, seized equipment and forced the station off the air, citing problems with permits for the station's operation.

Valles Baca told CEPET that, on 1 July, Jorge Carlos Santos Bouche, an inspector for the Communications and Transportation Secretariat (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes, SCT), arrived at the XEJS offices for an inspection.

After the inspection, Santos Bouche told Valles Baca that the station had failed to follow all the necessary administrative procedures and informed him that he had until 15 July to get everything in order.

However, on 15 July, Santos Bouche and 70 heavily-armed federal agents raided the radio station without identifying themselves or providing a search warrant, arguing that Canal 3 TV, from which XEJS rents airtime for some of its programming, had broken the law.

"We don't have anything to do with this television station, we just buy space from it,"said Valles Baca. "The whole operation was excessive, they closed streets surrounding the station and they intimidated the station personnel with their weapons. There were only four people in the office, we were broadcasting live and they took us off the air, unplugging all our cables."

As of 17 July, XEJS was still off the air since their equipment had not yet been returned, nor had they been given an explanation for what motivated the action against the station. Valles Baca considers the incident a form of reprisal for the various programmes that XEJS broadcasts involving political analysis criticising all levels of government.

Valles Baca insists that the action taken against XEJS has no legal grounds and stressed that the inspection took place before recent elections, while the raid happened afterwards. His theory of reprisal is supported by a threat that he received on the station's public phone-in line just days before the police raid.

According to the radio station company's manager, Roberto Holguín, the SCT inspector uttered similar threats after the raid on 15 July, saying, "You already know where this is coming from, so back off . . ."

As a result of these incidents, XEJS's lawyers have filed complaints with the State Human Rights Commission and the state Attorney General's Office.

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