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IAPA criticises shutdown of radio station

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (June 23, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today criticized the shutdown of a Nicaraguan radio station just as it was about to initiate broadcasting and claimed excessive force was used in the confiscation of its equipment, an action seen as retaliation for its owner's "criticism of the government."

Radio La Ley, which had been issued a broadcast license in 2004 and is located 67 miles north of the Nicaraguan capital in Sébaco, Matagalpla, was shut down the day before its launch on June 20. Owner Santiago Aburto has been a critic of the Daniel Ortega government by way of the "Buenas tardes" (Good Afternoon) program, broadcast by Radio Corporación radio station.

On June 19 the state regulatory agency, the Nicaraguan Telecommunications and Postal Institute (Telcor), canceled Radio La Ley's license to broadcast on its 102.1 frequency, claiming that according to Law 200 the station had delayed too long in initiating broadcasting after receiving its license five years ago. Confiscation of the station's broadcasting and operations equipment from Aburto's home by 30 armed civilians followed shortly.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, declared, "Apart from legal and administrative considerations, we are surprised at the excessive use of force to revoke a radio station's license." He expressed concern that this could be a question of "retaliation for a critical position against the government."

In an editorial today, the newspaper La Prensa - along with other Nicaraguan newspapers and radio stations - questioned the government's action, saying "there has been no legal or administrative justification" for it and adding that the owner had paid the required fees and Law 670 extended operating licenses until new telecommunications regulations replaced the current ones, in force since 1996.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, said that the IAPA had "well-founded reasons to suspect that this is retaliation by the government." He pointed out that seizure of the equipment violates the Constitution's Article 68 which states that "in no case may there be confiscated, as proof or instrument of a crime, the printing press or its accessories, nor any other medium or equipment used in the dissemination of thought."

The IAPA officers recalled that the mission the organization sent to Nicaragua in late January heard numerous complaints by journalists, editors and publishers about repressive acts by the Ortega government against freedom of the press and free speech.

Earlier, on October 11, 2002, then president Enrique Bolaños shut down radio La Poderosa, linked to former president Arnoldo Alemán. The action was denounced by the media, and condemned in IAPA reports, as a political act in contradiction of freedom of the press.

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