Thank you to CISPES for permission to place this item here. Be sure to continue reading after the call for faxes/letters for a section on the background of Salvadoran community radio.
> C I S P E S ACTION ALERT Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador National Office: P.O. Box 1801, New York, NY 10159 ~ 212-229-1290 3 Regional Offices: Boston, MA 617-524-1166 3 New York, NY 212-229-1290 3 Chicago, IL 312-227-2720 3 San Francisco, CA 415-648-6520 fax: 212-645-6657; e-mail: email@example.com BREAK IN & THREATS AGAINST COMMUNITY RADIOS: THE LATEST ARENA ASSAULT ON PEOPLE'S PARTICIPATION May 6, 1996 In January, El Salvador's Supreme Court ruled that the December seizure of community radio equipment from 9 stations by the National Civilian Police was unconstitutional. The radios took to the airwaves shortly thereafter and resumed broadcasting while continuing their struggle with ANTEL, (the National Telecommunications Company), for legalization. Threats of seizure and harassment against the community radios and their supporters by the Salvadoran Government has not stopped. In the last week alone: %ANTEL threatened to seize equipment from Radio Cooperativa in Usulatan if the station continues transmitting. Such an action would be in direct violation of the Constitution of El Salvador, as noted in the above mentioned Supreme Court ruling in January. %On Tuesday evening, April 30th, the office of the Association of Community Radios, (ARPAS), was broken into. All the papers about the community radios were rifled through. %Threats are also being extended to groups working with the community stations. ARPAS recently contracted COMPUSAL, a private communications company for technical assistance. Shortly after COMPUSAL agreed, an armed man entered their store demanding the equipment for the community stations. He did not take any other radio equipment in the store. Also, the regular shipment of equipment of COMPUSAL has not been allowed through customs. COMPUSAL has also been receiving phone harassment. %When ARPAS recently changed location the PNC drove past their former building and asked neighbors if ARPAS was still in the building. Later that same day the PNC began an unusual patrol of the new neighborhood. Suggested Action is to Call or Fax: 1. Lic. Juan Jose Daboub, President of ANTEL, Tel: 011-503-271-7011; Fax: 011-503-281-0017. 2. President of El Salvador, Armando Calderon Sol, Tel: 011-503-271-1555; Fax: 011 503 271-0950 3. Alan Flanigan, US Ambassador to El Salvador, Tel: 011-503-278-4444; Fax: 011-503-278-6011 DEMAND: A). The legalization of community radios that provide the only public communication in the rural areas where they operate. B). Inclusion of community radios as well as the telecommunications workers union ASTTEL in discussions and planning around the future of telecommunications in El Salvador. 4. Send this information to your local community station and encourage them to cover the story. BACKGROUND ON COMMUNITY RADIOS STRUGGLE: Community radio stations in El Salvador continue their efforts to be legalized by ANTEL, the telecommunications company. On Dec. 4th the former President of ANTEL (and President of the governing party ARENA) demanded that the police seize equipment and shut down the 11 community radio stations. Two of the station's stayed open thanks to community mobilizations that prevented the seizure of equipment. ANTEL'S justification was that the radios were operating illegally, without a license. There is speculation that the ARENA Party considers community operated radios a communications outlet that will operate against them in the coming electoral campaign that will culminate with legislative and municipal elections in March of 1997. There are also rumors that ANTEL received a call warning them that 50 more stations were about to be opened by sympathizers of the FMLN and that this prompted the December raids. The Supreme Court passed a decision in January requiring ANTEL to return the seized equipment. The Constitution prevents the state from seizing telecommunications equipment. The stations achieved a brief victory in being allowed to go back on the air. What has remained in question since January has been the legal status of the community radio stations. ANTEL interprets the Supreme Court decision as only requiring the return of equipment, but not as giving the stations the go-ahead to broadcast. ARPAS (the Association of Radio and Participatory Programming in El Salvador) interprets the decision as supporting their right to broadcast. ANTEL began to claim that it would be impossible for the stations to broadcast due to a lack of frequencies in El Salvador. The National Counsel for Human Rights, the United Nations Verification Office, ANTEL, and ARPAS began talks to try to find a solution to the problem. Two teams were formed, one to discuss legal problems and another to discuss technical problems. Each team had members from both ANTEL and ARPAS. The technical team returned from its research showing that there were indeed enough frequencies. The legal team of ANTEL ignored its own technical division and refused to sign the report. The power of the commercial radio stations on the national and international levels is important to take into consideration. The privatization of ANTEL is in effect breaking it down into two parts. One part will be telecommunication services and the other part will be the regulatory commission. The larger commercial T.V. and radio stations, owned by wealthy Salvadorans, want to be the only members of the regulatory commission, and thus control it. This would exclude the educational, university, and community stations from participation. Privatization of ANTEL has met resistance from a variety of sectors including the workers at ANTEL. ASTTEL, the Association of Telecommunications workers have attempted to present their own plans for true modernization in telecommunications but the Government Institution has ignored their alternative proposals. ASTTEL considers the privatization geared toward crushing union organizing and enriching wealthy Salvadorans and transnational communications giants like AT&T at the expense of ordinary people who will lose jobs, pay increased phone bills and see services cut altogether in some rural areas because they will not be profitable. ________________________________________________________ Bruce Girard AMARC - Pulsar Email: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.web.apc.org/amarc/pulsar.html Tel: +(593-2) 525-521 Fax/Tel: +(593-2) 542-818 Avenida America 3584, Casilla 17-01-1171, Quito, Ecuador
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