Reporters Without Borders today condemned a communication ministry order on 8 August forbidding community radio stations to broadcast programmes of a political nature. The order, which will remain in effect during the campaign for municipal and departmental elections scheduled for 28 October, was issued under a 1995 decree banning “political proselytism” on such stations.
“It is regrettable that the government is using this decree to censor community radio stations just as the Colombia people are preparing to elect local representatives,” the press freedom organisation said. “These stations are a fundamental tool of democratic debate and the only source of news and information in many localities. The authorities should not let the fight against armed groups induce them to confuse proselytism with the right to provide and receive information. We urge the communication ministry to rescind this order and to allow political programmes on the air.”
A communique issued by communication minister María del Rosario Guerra said community radio stations should no longer “include in their programming statements by candidates, political debates and propaganda about the current election campaign.” The community radio stations are also no longer allowed to sell time for political spots.
A similar ban was not imposed for the May 2006 presidential election.
The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) described the ban as an “arbitrary and unconstitutional act of censorship” because, it said, the community radio stations did not broadcast political propaganda and limited themselves to providing news and information.