Antigovernment protesters seize 12 private radio stations

New York, August 21, 2006—Protesters including striking school teachers in southern Mexico seized 12 private radio stations today after unidentified assailants shot up a government-owned station already under the demonstrators’ control.

At least 50 protesters of the antigovernment group, Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), simultaneously took over each of the stations in the city of Oaxaca, 325 miles (520 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City, the Associated Press reported. The protesters, a mixture of strikers, trade unionists and leftists, were armed with pipes, wooden planks, and clubs.

Local journalists Soledad Jarkin and Pedro Matías told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the stations were: Radio Oro, Magia 680, Tú FM, La Grande 89.7, Estéreo Cristal, La ley 710, Estéreo Exitos AM/FM, Radio Mexicana, Súper Q 101.1 FM, Dimensión 820 AM, La Grande de Oaxaca, and La Tremenda de Oaxaca.

Station owners told a news conference today that 25 employees of Radio Oro, La Ley 710 and Radio Mexicana were being held by strikers, according to Matías who works for the local daily Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca.

APPO strikers have been broadcasting messages from several of the seized radio stations since this morning, and called for the resignation of state governor Ulises Ruíz Ortíz, AP said.

“We call on all sides of this dispute to stop targeting the media,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “The employees of the radio stations being held by strikers should be released immediately, and the stations should be allowed to resume broadcasting.”

An APPO activist told CPJ that the strikers decided to take over the radio stations in response to an attack at 3:30 a.m. today on Corporación Oaxaqueña de Radio y Televisión (CORTV), a state-owned television and radio station seized by protesters August 1. During the assault, an activist was taken to a local hospital, said the AP.

APPO blames the Oaxaca government for the assault. Gov. Ruiz today denied any involvement in the attack. In a statement, Ruiz condemned the seizure of the private radio stations, calling it a “federal crime.” A spokesman for President Vicente Fox said that the federal government was monitoring the situation but had no plans to send in federal police to restore order, AP said.

Unrest has gripped Oaxaca since authorities broke up a protest by striking teachers on June 14 with tear gas. The teachers went on strike for a pay raise May 22.