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Radio station closed down after being accused of instigating people to protest

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 13 November 2008, Radio Ritmo radio station, which is based in the province of Santa Elena, western Ecuador, was closed down after the Telecommunications Superintendence (Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, SUPERTEL) acted on a resolution by the National Radio and Television Council (Consejo Nacional de Radiodifusión y Televisión, CONARTEL) which called for the return of the station's frequency to state ownership. According to CONARTEL, in November 2007 the station infringed article 58, chapter IV, of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Law by instigating the population to participate in demonstrations in favour of converting the canton of Santa Elena into Ecuador's 24th province.

In December 2007, the radio station's directors launched an appeal against the CONARTEL accusation and denied having incited the population to violence. In April 2008, however, CONARTEL ratified its decision against the station.

The Radio Ritmo directors then launched an appeal with the Contentious Administrative Proceedings Court (Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo), which, on 16 October, indicated that the case was being reviewed. On 13 November, however, Wilson Laines, the administrator of the Santa Elena police, and 20 other police officers closed down the radio station without a warrant and without the presence of prosecutor, according to Dalton Yagual, the radio station's programming director.

According to Article 76 of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Law, a broadcast license may only be cancelled after the license holder has exhausted all legal options. Since, according to the Contentious Administrative Proceedings Court, Radio Ritmo's appeal was still being reviewed, there was no justifiable reason for closing down the station.

After the closure of the station, Radio Ritmo's journalists and directors covered their mouths with adhesive tape as a sign of protest.

Radio Ritmo's relay station was also closed down, its equipment seized and its electricity cut off.

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