Deploring the use of violence by police who raided two community radio stations - Manantial FM in Carayaó and Tenondé FM in Coronel Oviedo - on 19 June and closed them down at the behest of the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel), Reporters Without Borders today urged the commission to approve the stations’ requests for official recognition.
“There is no justification for these absurd acts of reprisal as both radio stations have been in negotiations with Conatel with the aim of getting official permission to broadcast, which shows they want to be legal,” the press freedom organisation said.
“The Paraguayan authorities, above all Conatel, should comply with international recommendations regarding free speech by allowing local communities to have the ability to express themselves that they are demanding.”
According to the Paraguayan Community Communication Association (COMUNICA), the police raided Manantial FM at dawn with the aim of seizing its broadcast equipment. More than 100 people rushed to the station in response to an appeal for help which staff had time to broadcast. Anti-riot police attacked those who came to stop the station’s closure. The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters said the police used tear-gas and that several people had to be hospitalised for treatment to their injuries.
Broadcast equipment was also seized in a similar raid at 7 a.m. the same day in Coronel Oviedo on Tenondé FM, a station run by the National Peasant Organisation (ONAC).
Conatel uses very disparate criteria for legalising radio stations and is much more likely to approve a request from a pirate commercial radio station than one from a community radio.