Community Radio in
El Salvador

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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: cispesnatl@igc.apc.org      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: bgirard@pulsar.org.ec   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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