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Critical radio and TV stations closed down in Napo province

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 29 May 2012 - On 24 May 2012, authorities of the Police and the Telecommunications Superintendence (SUPERTEL) seized equipment and closed down TV station Lidervisión in the city of Tena and Radio Líder in the city of Archidona, both in the Amazon province of Napo, in northeastern Ecuador.

The radio and TV stations' owner, Edison Chávez, confirmed that the police intendant, Liliana Villa, arrived at Lidervisión's headquarters and, after showing a warrant issued by SUPERTEL, “searched the place, accompanied by public prosecutors, broke everything and took the broadcasting equipment, like in a dictatorship. They used a padlock and left everything locked", he stated. Chávez made clear that the same thing did not happen at the radio station because they decided to remove the equipment voluntarily before it was seized.

Elizabeth Quezada, Lidervisión's legal representative, corroborated Chávez's version of events and said that as a consequence of the closure nearly 25 families have lost their source of income.

According to Chávez, the stations were closed down because they owed six months of concession fees. However, he said the case had been appealed in the Contentious Administrative Court, so that according to Art.67 of the Broadcasting and Television Law, they should not have been closed down while the legal process was still going on.

The frequencies' owner believes the closures were politically motivated and that “they (the authorities) aim to suspend all private media using any kind of argument”.

In his case, Chávez asserted that his media outlets have criticized authorities and have given the public a space to express itself. For example, he pointed out that they questioned the sudden layoffs of public servants, as well as the gas crisis in the province that caused people to have to make long queues. “It was the only outlet citizens could use to protest and express themselves because the rest are pro-government", he said.

On 10 February 2011, the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL), through resolution RTV-129-03-CONATEL-2011, ratified its decision to declare the early and unilateral termination of the channel 9 “LIDERVISIÓN” concession contract signed on 17 June 2004, for having incurred a cause for terminating the contract as established in item i) of Art.67 of the Broadcasting and Television Law regarding “a delay in the payment of six or more consecutive months of rent of the frequency”.

A similar resolution (RTV- 769-24) issued on 23 November 2010 determined the early termination of the concession contract for Radio Líder FM, the concession of which was granted in August 2001.

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