<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Community Radio in Oaxaca Spreads the Other Campaign to the Four Winds

Across the State, Stations are Giving an Example for Popular, Alternative Media, but Must Fight to Survive

By James Daria and Dul Santamaria
The Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade, Reporting for Narco News

February 9, 2006

The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle proposes another form of doing politics that rejects the idea of seizing power and instituting change from the top down. Instead it is based in the principle of “from below and by those below” in the creation of a national plan of struggle. This concept, therefore, rejects the participation of political parties. Together with political parties, the “Other” rejects corporate mass media as a mechanism of disinformation and manipulation. The question then becomes how can the “simple and humble folk” that the Sixth Declaration calls upon be informed of the ideas and events of the “Other Campaign” when the mass media constantly ignores or distorts the efforts of the Zapatista delegation? The Zapatista delegation proposed a bottom up approach to media coverage during the Other Campaign.

In a communiqué dated December 26, 2005 Subcamondante Marcos gave the state coordinating committees guidelines with which to respect the presence and participation of alternative communication media. He also said that alternative media are at a disadvantage compared to the corporate media and that preferential treatment should be given to them so as to make this Other Campaign truly “other.” In Oaxaca various forms of alternative media are being utilized to spread information about the new national Zapatista-inspired initiative. One of the most unique – and illegal – of these alternative media is community radio.

Community Radio in Oaxaca

In Oaxaca, an integral part of the popular, indigenous and urban struggle has been the community radio movement. Community radio in Oaxaca first emerged with the struggle of the Coalición Obrero Campesino Estudiantil del Istmo (COCEI) in the port city of Juchitán in the 1980s. Juchitán was the first city to kick out the Institutional Ruling Party (PRI) and install a socialist government. The struggle of COCEI has been a key reference point for Oaxacan social movements and its development of communal radio was groundbreaking.

Today in Oaxaca there exist many community radio stations. The number fluctuates between fifteen and twenty due to state repression, as community radio stations are not legally permitted. Community radio stations fill many roles, especially in rural and indigenous communities where means of mass communication are almost non-existent. Radio is a relatively cheap medium and is financially possible for many communities and organizations. Indigenous communities have found in radio a way to preserve and disseminate their languages and cultures in the face of official neglect and the cultural onslaught of the mestizo-controlled mass media.

Radio Plantón

One of the most important community radio stations in the state of Oaxaca can be found freely and openly transmitting from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day in the center of Oaxaca City at 92.1 FM. It is supported by Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE-CNTE). Operated by members of the Magisterio Zapatista and the democratic front of the SNTE, Radio Plantón has played an important role in disseminating the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign.

The idea for Radio Plantón emerged in state assemblies of the Magisterio, or teachers’ union, in 1998. The idea for the radio station came about as the teachers became aware of the role of the corporate media monopoly in disinformation, especially against the interests of the democratic teachers’ struggle. Thus, the union members decided that they needed their own communication medium. The Media Center of Section 22 saw in a Magisterial radio a way to enrich the organizational structure of the union.

Originally Radio Plantón was conceived with the intention of it lasting only throughout the annual “plantón,” or occupation, in which the teachers union organizes teachers throughout the country to converge on their state capital to push for better wages and conditions during the annual renovation of their contract with the federal government.

On May 23, 2005 Radio Plantón was officially born and began transmitting at seven in the morning. After the annual strike and occupation of the city center, the general secretary decided that Radio Plantón should continue. Section 22 is the only union in the country with a radio station. The union saw it as an instrument of struggle not only for the teachers’ union but for the community as well.

However, the radio station was not just created by Section 22, but rather by a conglomerate of political organizations, individuals and other community radio stations. These groups lent equipment and resources for the construction of what became Radio Plantón. Thus, it began not just as a station of the teachers’ union but also belonging to civil society.

Being a radio station that was formed by such a diverse mixture of the Oaxacan community, Radio Plantón was later opened up to the direction of civil society in order to be an educational, cultural, political and civic radio station. Section 22 occupies a mere 30 percent of programming time while the remaining 70 is occupied by a diverse mixture of civil society. The programming includes varied musical, political and educational programs that reflect the very diverse nature of Oaxacan society.

Repression of Free Speech

While community radio is proliferating in Oaxaca, so too is the backlash against it. On December 7, 2005 at least forty members of the Federal Preventive Police and representatives of the Secretariat of Communication and Transportation invaded the community of San Jacinto Amilpas, violating municipal autonomy. The armed federal police raided the building from where the community radio station Radio San Jacinto transmitted. Without presenting legal warrants to enter the premises, the operation confiscated the transmitter and other equipment. On the same day, the PFP raided the Estéreo Lluvia station in Tututepec, Oaxaca and dismantled their equipment for a second time.

Community radio in Oaxaca, as in all parts of the Mexican Republic, is illegal. The extent of its illegality and possible further repression will have to be examined with the new Law of Radio and Television that the Mexican congress is approving. In the meantime, Radio Plantón will continue transmitting because, as one of its operators said, with the support of 70,000 teachers throughout the state the government doesn’t want to pick a fight.

Radio Sexta

Operators of Radio Plantón went to Chiapas last September to attend the first talks of the Other Campaign and formed the Media Network for the Sixth Declaration. There they broadcasted the Plenary Assemblies live. Radio Plantón has been continuing the coverage of the Other Campaign nightly. In fact, one of the few forms of mass media that is continually disseminating the Sixth Declaration is radio. Many of the meetings from the Valles Centrales coordinating committee have taken place in the small auditorium of this community radio station, and it has proved a vital tool for community organizing. Radio Plantón is planning on live broadcasts of the Other Campaign in Oaxaca. Listen in to 92.1 FM to hear it.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America