A Mexican judge has sentenced Monterrey-based community radio activist, Dr. Hector Camero, to 2 years in prison for using the airwaves without a license. Many in Mexico’s small community radio world had hoped that the charges against the physician would be thrown out due to multiple irregularities in the case.
In the Wednesday ruling, the judge also imposed a fine of 15,000 pesos – more than US$1000 – and stripped Dr. Camero of his civil and political rights. The doctor is a key member of the “Tierra y Libertad” low power FM station based in the low-income but tightly-knit community of the same name. It’s located on the outskirts of the northern industrial city of Monterrey and is home to many factory workers.
Tierra y Libertad first applied for a radio license in 2002 and began broadcasting without a permit later that year. In 2008, broadcast equipment was confiscated in an aggressive raid involving more than 100 police. Through the help of the Mexico chapter of the World Association of Community Broadcasters – or AMARC – the station finally secured a license last year.
Licensed community radio stations are extremely rare in Mexico. All licensed LPFMs here started out broadcasting without government permission.
According to AMARC Mexico, Dr. Camero’s case is the first of a community radio programmer receiving a prison sentence specifically for broadcasting without a license. The community radio association is calling on the Mexican government to establish criteria for the legal operation of LPFMs in line with international standards.