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Amazon-based radio station closed by police

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 3 April 2011, radio station La Voz de la Esmeralda Oriental Canela, based in Macas, a town 647 km southeast of Quito, was closed by local police officers.

Station owner Wilson Cabrera reported that during the police operation, cables were cut and the station's transmission equipment was removed.

According to what Cabrera told Fundamedios, at 10:00 a.m. on 3 April he noticed that there was no signal, so he went up the hill to check if there were any problems with the transmitters and antennae. This was when he found out about the police operation, which he described as "an abuse and sabotage". Cabrera said that he was not notified ahead of time and thought it strange that the closure did not take place on a business day. "It is not possible that the public should be affected in this way. There are no legal guarantees," he stated.

On 17 September 2010, the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) decided to "refuse to renew the (radio station's) broadcasting licence contract" as an "administrative sanction" and on 16 December it ruled that the Communications Superintendent (SUPERTEL) should proceed to "close down the radio station" after rejecting the extraordinary appeal filed by Cabrera.

All these measures were condemned by Cabrera, who attributes them, instead, to the station's critical stance against the local authorities and the national government.

Fundamedios and other organisations that defend freedom of expression have pointed out the serious arbitrariness involved in not renewing Radio La Voz de la Esmeralda Oriental Canela's broadcasting licence, because of minor administrative violations.

The case is currently being appealed before a tribunal (Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo) in a process that has still not been settled. As such, Cabrera said that the closure is "clearly illegal" since a final decision is pending.

According to the station's owner, this "persecution" is linked to his criticisms and to alleged political pressure exerted by Vethowen Chica, member of parliament for the ruling party Alianza PAIS.
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