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Municipality suspends advertising contracts with critical radio stations

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - Ruben Valencia, president of the Radio Cadena Val network, which includes the Wradio and K1 stations in the city of Cuenca - 450 km south of Quito - denounced a decision made by the city council to suspend all advertising contracts granted to the two stations in November 2010 as a reprisal against the Wradio news program's critical editorial line.

Valencia told Fundamedios that Jhoana Valencia, the manager of the two stations, had been warned before November that all advertising on both stations would be suspended, even though K1 does not broadcast news programs.

According to the radio network's president, the city council's decision may have resulted from alleged criticisms against the mayor, Paúl Granda, broadcast during the Wradio news program.

Valencia commented that he met with Granda in January 2011, who showed him reports submitted by the Municipal Communications Department which indicated that the radio station's journalists had made harsh comments about the mayor.

Valencia emphasized, however, that none of the journalists used offensive words when referring to the mayor. This was verified by checking recordings of the program. He added that the news program conducts investigations and that it has criticized the municipality's actions.

Cadena Val is not the only network that has been impacted in this way in Cuenca. Gustavo Valencia, a representative of Radio Splendid, which is not linked in any way to Radio Cadena Val, said that the city council suspended its advertising contracts with the station in September 2009.

The Radio Splendid representative believes the station's news program's editorial line has not met with the approval of the council. "The right of the station's journalists to access information has also been impacted as no government officials have agreed to appear on the station's interview programs despite having been invited to do so," said Gustavo Valencia.

The city council refused to comment on the issue.

Fundamedios condemns these actions as indirect attacks against freedom of expression, which contravene international agreements such as the American Convention on Human Rights. The organization calls on the Municipality of Cuenca and its mayor to refrain from violating the fundamental right to freedom of expression by using the allocation of advertising contacts as a tool to retaliate against media outlets with critical editorial lines.

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