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TV station closed, equipment seized in Morona Santiago

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 23 May 2012, public TV station Telesangay, which belongs to the Provincial Government of Morona Santiago, in southern Ecuador, was closed down. Authorities of the Telecommunications Superintendence (SUPERTEL), along with the police superintendent and a prosecutor, seized the TV station's broadcasting equipment and cut its signal.

Eduardo Bernardi, the station's production assistant, told Fundamedios that around 9:00 a.m. the SUPERTEL regional officer, Fabián Brito, a prosecutor and the Police superintendant arrived at Telesangay's headquarters to close it down. “They came with about 50 policemen. They requested permission to take broadcasting equipment in order to cut the signal sent to the satellite (...) and they also took the relaying equipment that was located on five hills,” he said.

Dario Brito, the station's chief of production, added that the authorities did not show them any documents or legal warrants as they walked in to cut the signal and just stated this was something the station should have known would happen.

According to statements made by Francisco Cevallos, the prefecture's attorney, to Ecuadorinmediato.com, the authorities' measure “is arbitrary and illegal, as a previous constitutional ruling issued by the Macas Tribunal states that SUPERTEL cannot close down any media while there is no definitive judicial sentence”.

The reason for the closure is that on 8 August 2011, through resolution RTV-589-15-CONATEL-2011, the National Telecommunications Council notified Prefect Felipe Marcelino Chumpi its decision to declare the early and unilateral termination of Telesangay's concession contract for “lack of compliance in the installation, which, in accordance with the Regulations, was conceded to the Ecuadorian Telecommunications Institute”. However, in statements issued during an interview with EcuadoRadio on 23 August 2011, the prefect, who is a militant of the opposition party Pachakutik, confirmed that the decision had political undertones.

The station is currently off the air and the following statement can be read on its webpage:“Telesangay was arbitrarily closed down by SUPERTEL. They have killed the dreams of the province of Morona Santiago”.

Fundamedios condemns the censure of a critical voice in the Ecuadorian Amazon through an abusive and hasty administrative measure. This event is doubly serious because Telesangay is a public service media outlet.

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