Mexico: thousands protest ‘Televisa law’

Thousands of protesters formed a human chain in Mexico City on April 26 in a demonstration against a telecommunications law proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto and now under consideration in the Senate. The protesters included former Mexico City mayor Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano (1997-2000), one of the founders of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD); youths from #YoSoy132 ("I'm number 132"), a student movement that formed in 2012 in opposition to the election campaign of then-candidate Peña Nieto, of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); and some members of the center-right National Action Party (PAN). The organizers estimated participation at 7,000, while the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police put the number at 3,000.

After forming the human chain—which stretched more than three miles, although with some gaps, from the Auditorio Nacional to the Televisa television network's offices in the Chapultepec neighborhood—the protesters marched to the Senate building for a rally. Only unity and mobilization from opponents would keep the government from imposing censorship and strengthening the television monopolies, Cárdenas said. "We're not going to give up," he added. "For this we're going to exercise our rights, whether they like it or not." There were also smaller protests in León, Guanajuato; Saltillo, Coahuila; and Ciudad Juárez and the city of Chihuahua in Chihuahua state.

The proposed law is supposed to provide a legal framework for implementing constitutional reforms passed last years. Supporters, including all the PRI senators and many from the PAN, claim the bill would weaken the de facto monopolies of billionaire Carlos Slim over cell phone service and of Televisa and the rival Azteca (formerly TV Azteca) over television. But opponents say it would actually strengthen the two dominant television networks, and critics refer to the bill as the "Televisa law." According to opponents the proposal would give the federal Governance Secretariat the power to review radio and television content, would do nothing to encourage independent production of television and radio material by Mexicans, and would weaken public, indigenous and community media, which already face major hurdles when they try to win licenses. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 27, April 27)

The bill originally included a requirement for telecommunication companies to give intelligence agencies the geographical location of users if requested; another provision would allow the government to block communications temporarily in situations where the authorities claim national security is at risk. Activists responded with internet campaigns. One group posted an English-language appeal on YouTube for international solidarity, and the hash tag "EPNvsInternet" (referring to Peña Nieto's initials) was soon cited more than 400,000 times on the internet and reached more than 58 million Twitter users. Protesters marched to the Televisa offices in Chapultepec the evening of April 22 in a demonstration against the new "national security" powers the bill would have given the government. DF police agents blocked the marchers as they approached the building, beating and arresting four youths. The agents also beat representatives of the municipal government's own DF Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) when they tried to intervene. Later that night senators from the PRI announced that they would remove the provisions from the bill. (Wall Street Journal, April 23; AP, April 24, via Huffington Post; LJ, April 24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 27.