Mexico: community radio announcers imprisoned

Alma Delia Olivares Castro, an announcer on the La Cabina community radio station in Omealca municipality in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz, was arrested on Feb. 28 and was held in a federal prison in Nayarit state for five days on charges of "auditory contamination." The authorities released Olivares Castro on March 4 after her family put up 25,000 pesos (about US$1,893) in bail, but she still faces criminal charges. After realizing that "auditory contamination" is not an offense under Mexican law, the authorities changed the charge to "undue use of a national good" (the airwaves). The station has already been closed and fined 29,000 pesos (about US$2,199) under the Federal Radio and Television Law, which regulates the licensing of radio and television stations.

Olivares Castro and some friends started La Cabina to meet the lack of local news in the area. According to supporters, the station quickly became a forum for the community where people could debate political issues and even question the mayor's decisions. Mexican activists say the government is slow to grant licenses to community radio stations, so many operate without authorization. The Mexican section of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) denounced the government's penalization of La Cabina and Olivares Castro as an attack on freedom of speech.

In a similar case, Paola Ochoa Tlapanco, an announcer on Radio Identidad in Paso del Macho, Veracruz, was arrested in 2009 along with two other employees, José Maza and Juan José Hernández. According to one report, this year she was sentenced to two years in prison, the payment of a fine and the loss of civil and political rights for the unauthorized use of the airwaves. (, Veracruz, Feb. 25; Ifex, March 13; Adital, Brazil, March 13)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 16.