(en) Salvadoran Community Radio Stations Under Privatization Th

Lyn Gerry (redlyn@loop.com)
Fri, 12 Dec 1997 10:34:42 +0000

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------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 12:56:36 -0500 To: cocodaindy@igc.org From: cocodaindy@igc.apc.org (CoCoDA) Subject: Salvadoran Community Radio Update

***************************************************************** Companion Community Development Alternatives (CoCoDA)

12, December, 1997 >>COMMUNITY RADIO UPDATE<<

Salvadoran Community Radios Are Excluded from Reforms to Telecommunications Law--The Radios Vow to Continue Their Struggle *****************************************************************

On Thursday, the 6th of November, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed reforms to El Salvador's telecommunications law, paving the way for the privatization of the sector. The law, supported by ARENA, PDC, PCN, MU, and PD political parties, passed with 53 votes (of the 84 possible). The 11 Salvadoran community radios, key tools for democratic participation and development in small rural communities, were shut out of recent reforms to the Salvadoran telecommunications law.

The Association of Participative Radios and Program of El Salvador (ARPAS), the organization that represents the community radios, had sought, through a reform package submitted to the Legislative Assembly, to legalize the 11 radios. They also hoped to open a space for non-profit broadcasting in El Salvador, much like that we enjoy in the United States. The ARPAS proposal would: double the number of frequencies available, keeping with international technical norms; reserve 30% of the additional broadcast channels for non-profit stations serving their communities; and set up a national regulatory board for non-profit broadcasters composed of university, religious, and other prominent telecommunications figures.

In response to the newly-passed law, ARPAS placed this statement in the Salvadoran press:


The deputies of the legislative Assembly approved the Telecommunications Law. Once again, pressure, blackmail and offers of free publicity for the next election have triumphed. Legislation from the ARENA, PDC and PCN parties have once again favored a small group of people who monopolize radio and television frequencies in El Salvador. It is clear that this new law is unconstitutional in that at least some articles of the Constitution, particularly Art. 6, guarantees freedom of expression in our country. Worse, by imposing technical criteria that favor the commercial radios represented by ASDER (The Salvadoran Association of Commercial Broadcasters),such as the bandwidth separation of AM and FM channels, not only are the regulatory functions of SIGET weakened, but international norms suggested by ITU( International Telecommunications Union) are ignored.

Deputies of ARENA, PDC, PCN, we remind you that we are all equal before the law and that you have the obligation to legislate for the common good of all Salvadorans. Approving the Telecommunications Law, which favors a few radio and television owners, is a dereliction of the duty for which you were elected. We trust in God that the Salvadoran people will punish those who make such distinctions and who allow themselves to be bought by promises of free political publicity.

With continued determination, ARPAS maintains that history is not finished and that the community radios will continue their transmissions. Having sought legalization of their broadcast since mid-1991, they will continue to demonstrate to SIGET that their functioning is technically possible.

With truth on our side, the help of organizations of Salvadoran civil society and the international activities of AMARC ( World Association of Community Radios), ALER (Latin-American Association of Radio Educators) and WACC (World Association of Christian Communicators), we will bring our case before the Secretary General of the UN and The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights so that the Salvadoran state will have to be the one to account for the legislative incoherence and for the violation of fundamental rights caused by approving a law which contradicts our constitution.


Despite the legal setback, gains have been made. Oscar Perez, Executive Secretary of ARPAS pointed out, "The debate in the days leading up to and following the vote has been good. The community radios, ARPAS and the democratization of the means of communication have been strengthened--there are more people who are know about the community radios and there are more people who are dealing with the subject." The newspapers covered the story for nearly 2 weeks and ARPAS's representatives appeared several times on television. Also, officials for the General Superintendency for Electricity and Telecommunications (SIGET), the regulatory agency responsible for the authorizing radio frequencies, have stated that they are inclined to grant frequencies to the 11 community radios that have already filed for frequencies.

Current and future actions by ARPAS include:

* Pressure SIGET to expeditiously grant licenses to the 11 community radios who are currently broadcasting.

* Continue denouncing actions that violate freedom of expression and favor monopolies which weaken democratic reconciliation, pluralism, editorial processes and social justice.

* Seek mechanisms to involve the US Embassy in decision making around the issue.

* Encourage people in the US to support the actions being taken by AMARC, ALER, and WACC before the UN and The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

CoCoDA's Campaign for Democratic Communications will continue to support the Salvadoran community radios' struggle. As opportunities for North American solidarity arise, we will post action alerts. If you have questions or comments about the current struggle, please contact:

/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\ Companion Community Development Alternatives -- CoCoDA 609 E 29th Street Indianapolis, IN 46205

phone: 317/920-8643 fax: 317/920-8649 e-mail: cocodaindy@igc.apc.org

Companionship in Development with El Salvador \\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////\\\\\/////

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