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Government threatens to shut down educational radio station in Itapúa

(AMARC/IFEX) - The nongovernmental organisation CECTEC (Centro de Educación Capacitación y Tecnología Campesina) has condemned a decision by the telecommunications entity Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CONATEL) to shut down an educational radio station based in Itapúa. CONATEL appears to be acting under the influence of politicians close to President Nicanor Duarte who control the region.

"Unfortunately, yet again, the interests of local politicians come first. These politicians are acting like feudal landlords trying to silence some voices, especially those that do not support the Itaipú hydroelectric dam," said Augusto dos Santos, a CECTEC advisor.

The government has said that the radio station is violating the law by using a transmitter that is more powerful than 50 watts, the limit set for community media outlets. CECTEC has on more than one occasion filed petitions to try to amend this situation, arguing that the radio station's coverage needs to be big enough to reach those students who are enrolled in distance classes.

Were it to use a 50 watt transmitter the organisation would not be able to serve all of its 300 students, as the coverage would not even reach to the limits of its property.

According to AMARC, prior and arbitrary limitations placed on the power or coverage of community radio stations are a violation of freedom of expression, a restriction of the right of community organisations to express themselves freely and communities' right to receive information.

The educational radio station has authorisation to broadcast and is a member of the COMUNICA broadcasting network (Asociación de Radiodifusión Paraguaya), which is linked to AMARC. CECTEC works mainly with peasant farmers, their families and communities. The organization tries to address problems that affect peasant families and in particular young people.

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