Ten community radio stations closed
From Solidarity Action Network, 13 December 1995
SAN SALVADOR, DECEMBER 1995 -- In a simultaneous operation in communities throughout the country, the Salvadoran National Civil Police (PNC) closed and confiscated the equipment of ten community radio stations on Monday December 4. All of the stations are members of the Association of Participatory Radio Stations and Programs of El Salvador (ARPAS), and the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).
According to members of the PNC, the operation was carried out at the request of Juan Jose Domenech, President of ANTEL, the state agency charged with regulating broadcasting and telecommunications. Sources within the PNC said that Domenech had ordered the closure of "all the community radio stations".
The radio stations affected by the police operation are: Segundo Montes (Meanguera, Department of Morazan), Izcanal (Nueva Grenada, Usulatan), Ulua (Cacaopera, Morazan) Cooperativa (Santa Elena, Usulatan), Victoria (Villa Victoria, Caban~as), Suchitlan (Suchitoto, Cuscatlan), Excel (Zaragoza, La Libertad), Teo-Radio (Teotepeque, La Libertad), and Nejapa (Nejapa, San Salvador). In Guarjila, department of Chalatenango, residents occupied Radio Sumpul, protecting it from the police action and preventing its closure.
Most of the stations operated with very low-power and were heard only in the immediate vicinity of the municipality in which they were located. The three most powerful stations broadcast with 100 watts and were heard in most of the department in which they were located. There is no indication that any of them interfered with the signals of other existing radio stations.
The stations are owned by their municipalities, by associations of residents or agricultural workers, or by non-governmental organisations concerned with improving social conditions. All of them are participatory and educational in nature and strive to serve the poorer sectors of the population. In more isolated zones, these radio stations also serve as the "community telephone system", broadcasting messages, both emergency and personal, to and from listeners. They are the most important source of local and regional news and provide an electronic public bulletin board, announcing community events and activities. All of these radio stations offer a space in which all members of the community can exercise their right to inform, to express their opinions, and to be heard.
All of the stations have a history of cooperation with the authorities, broadcasting messages on behalf of municipal governments, the National Civil Police, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education and even ANTEL, the agency that has ordered their closure.
While none of the stations have received broadcast licenses from ANTEL, some of them have been operating since 1990 and almost all of them have been on the air for at least 2 years. During this period, it has been shown that the stations do not interfere with existing stations and numerous appeals have been made to ANTEL, the Legislative Assembly and other authorities (see AMARC's RadioAction Alert of August 19, 1993). In a statement issued December 5, ARPAS noted that "the radio stations have done everything possible to assure their legality and continue to do so... But in this country, admired around the world for its ability to negotiate, it has not been possible to move foreword in the discussions with ANTEL."
According to ARPAS the principal problem is the "tremendous confusion" in El Salvador's broadcast legislation. "If Salvadoran laws restrict the use of radio to the state and commercial spheres, if public service and social and cultural development are not part of the broadcasting norm, if the laws do not support the rights of citizens and civil society to have access to the means of communication, then it is urgent that those laws be revised."
ARPAS and AMARC's Solidarity Network are requesting that messages of protest be sent to El Salvador's president, Armando Calderon. Your message should request:
Sr. Armando Calderon Sol
Messages of support and copies of your message to the president can
be sent to ARPAS:
Please send copies of your messages to AMARC's Solidarity Network at the address below.
The Solidarity Action Network is an initiative of AMARC, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
For more information about AMARC or the Action Network, contact us at:
3575 St-Laurent, # 704 - Montreal, Quebec - H2X 2T7 Canada
This message is also available in French and Spanish. Email us for a copy.