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Mexico29 September 2006

Arson attack destroys studio of local radio station in Oaxaca state

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an arson attack that destroyed the studio of radio La Consentida 660 AM in Tehuantepec (in the southern state of Oaxaca) on 27 September. A station employee discovered the charred remains of the studio’s recording equipment at around 6 a.m., along with death threats against the station’s manager, Romualdo Santiago, daubed on the walls

The threats were signed by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), a local group that has occupied news media in the course of its campaign to remove Oaxaca’s governor, Luis Ortiz.

But the station’s owner, Humberto López-Lena Cruz, a parliamentary representative of the left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), said he doubted the APPO was responsible and that it was more likely the work of the supporters of Ortiz or his predecessor, José Murat, who are at odds with the local press.

24.08.06 - Police fire on journalists in Oaxaca

Reporters Without Borders voiced dismay today at another case of violence against journalists in the southern city of Oaxaca on 22 August, when newspaper photographers Jorge Luis Plata of Reforma and Luis Alberto Cruz of Milenio and a TV crew with Televisión Azteca came under fire while covering a police operation aimed at evicting APPO activists who had been occupying radio La Ley for the past 24 hours.

Plata said they were photographing the police vehicles carrying out the eviction when the police began firing on them. They hid behind posts to avoid being shot. Edgar Galicia of Televisión Azteca said the police confiscated their cameras and microphones as well as all the mobile phones of the APPO members. The operation was ordered by municipal public safety coordinator Aristeo López Martínez and Oaxaca state police director Manuel Moreno Rivas.

22.08.06 - Oaxaca media become hostage to struggle between unions and state governor

Reporters Without Borders today roundly condemned a shooting attack on a local public television station in the southern city of Oaxaca yesterday while it was being used to broadcast an appeal for the Oaxaca state governor to resign. A trade unionist was injured in the attack, the latest serious press freedom violation in a ongoing struggle between unions and the governor, who is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico’s ruling party for seven decades until 2000.

“We are dismayed by the repeated attacks that have been seriously affecting press freedom for the past two months in Oaxaca,” the organisation said. “It is urgent that peace should be restored and that the armed attacks and occupations of public and privately-owned media should stop. The coexistence of free, critical and independent media is essential in any democracy.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “In view of the impossibility of this problem being resolved by the local government, we call on the federal authorities to intervene and to put an end to the intimidation, threats and violence against media and journalists as soon as possible.”

The station that came under fire yesterday morning by hooded gunmen was Canal 9, which is part of CORTV, the Oaxaca state public broadcaster. It has been occupied since 1 August by members of the Permanent Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), a movement opposed to Governor Ulises Ruiz.

The shooting caused damage to the studios and injured unionist Sergio Vale Jiménez, who was rushed to hospital. It also cut short the broadcasts which the APPO was carrying out with the help of employees held inside the station. At the time of the attack, the APPO was broadcasting the demands of the National Union of Education Workers (STNE), which is calling on the governor to step down.

Later in the day, APPO members demonstrated peacefully outside 12 commercial radio stations, urging people to protest against the attack. Two stations, ACIR and La Ley, were occupied in the course of the protests so that the APPO could resume broadcasting its programmes. Its own radio stations have been out of commission following a recent attack.

Presidential spokesman Rúben Aguilar said the attack on Canal 9 was ordered by the governor with the aim of recovering control of the public broadcaster. At the same time, Oaxaca state prosecutor Lizbeth Caña Cadena denied that police took part and said an investigation was under way.

Yesterday’s shooting was just the latest in a series of attacks on the press. The newspaper Milenio reported on 16 August that its correspondent, Oscar Rodríguez, was attacked by APPO members who had previously accused him of inaccurate reporting. The daily newspaper Diario was the target of an attack on 9 August in which several people were injured.

Some 15 hooded individuals burst into the studios of Radio Universidad (an APPO station) on 8 August and used acid to damage equipment. On 3 August, the APPO threatened to attack the offices of the newspapers Tiempo and Extra, accusing them of being in cahoots with the governor. Both newspapers reacted to the threats by closing down their offices.

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