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Fifth media outlet closed in a two-week period

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 8 June 2012 - On 6 June 2012, authorities of the General Intendancy of the Police, the Prosecutor's Office and the Telecommunications Superintendancy (SUPERTEL) closed down and seized the equipment of radio station Net of the city of Ambato, in the province of Tungurahua in central Ecuador.

According to Marco Armas, the station's manager, the equipment was seized around midday when José Alfredo Carrillo, SUPERTEL's regional delegate, arrived with approximately 50 policemen to proceed “in an abrupt way” to close down the radio station.

Armas told Fundamedios that they took the broadcasting equipment, the computer that held the programming and consoles, among other things. “We did not put up any resistance. Despite this, they knocked down the wall and doors of the room where the broadcasting equipment was”, he stated.

On 17 September, the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL), through resolution RTV-541-17-CONATEL-2010, declared “the early and unilateral termination of the concession contract signed on 09 January 2001 (...) for having incurred in the cause for terminating the contract established in item i) of Art.67 of the Broadcasting and Television Law” for “a delay in the payment of six or more consecutive months of rent of the conceded frequency”, according to the law.

Armas believes SUPERTEL's actions are “illegal and unconstitutional” because although he acknowledges that they were delayed in their payments in 2009, they have already paid the amount owed and had initiated a process to challenge the decision before the Administrative Contentious Tribunal, meaning that the station could not be closed down.

The radio station manager, who used to be a member of the Democratic Left party, said that Net has always been a diverse station, although quite critical of the local authorities when necessary,and that he has not ruled out a political motive for its closure. “There has been antagonism between us and the main local authorities who are in line with the government, not I believe with the president, but with middle-ranking officials who have interpreted the law as they pleased”, he said.

The radio station is currently off the air and its 20 employees have lost their jobs.

This is the fifth media outlet that has been closed down and had its equipment seized over a two week period. On 23 May, the TV station owned by the Provincial Government of Morona Santiago, Telesangay, and radio station El Dorado, of Sucumbíos, were closed down. The next day the authorities did the same with Lidervisión, of the city of Tena, and Radio Líder,of the city of Archidona, both in the Amazon province of Napo.

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