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Venezuela12 May 2005

Military and officials raid a radio station and seize its transmitter

Reporters Without Borders has protested against a lightning raid by members of the military and officials of the national telecommunications commission (Conatel) on a Caracas radio station and the seizing of its transmitter.

"We are dismayed by this practice of storming into a radio station and suspending its means of transmission without explanation. In addition, is it really necessary that soldiers accompany Conatel officials? It smacks of intimidation", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"We are particularly shocked that this station should be sanctioned now, on the grounds that it is not authorised to broadcast, while it has been broadcasting for five years," added Reporters Without Borders "The fact that 94.9 FM has already been allocated to another station should not prevent another one being allocated to Radio Alternativa."

Five soldiers and the officials from Conatel burst without warning into the studios of Radio Alternativa 94.9 FM, on 10 May 2005.

The station staff said the officials did not identify themselves and gave a vague justification of "official sanctions" for confiscating the equipment.

A correspondent in Caracas for the press freedom organisation Instituto prensa y sociedad (IPYS) told Reporters Without Borders that the station which has been broadcasting for five years, has constantly applied to Conatel for a licence but without success.

An official at the national journalists’ college explained that Conatel had in September 2004 allocated the frequency 94.9 FM to Radio Tiburón, a station based in Guárico State in central Venezuela, which had caused interference problems to both stations for three months.

Radio Alternativa 94.9 FM does not therefore have official permission to broadcast, but the Venezuelan law on telecommunications provides for an official investigation to be held before any sanction such as suspension is put into effect. In this case, Conatel has not respected the law.

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