Closing inconvenient broadcasters by claiming that their licence has expired is a typical vice of authoritarian regimes. Which, in the most perfidious guises, do not respond to broadcasters or do not issue a receipt even if the publisher delivers the application in person (this happened in Nicaragua to the bishop Rolando José Álvarez, we reported on it here). But in a democratic state, gagging stations is a little more difficult. As the recent case of Nigeria shows: last week, the chairman of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had given 53 radio and television stations 24 hours to pay the fee or else be suspended from broadcasting.
An appeal was immediately lodged against the article in the regulation that NBC wanted to use to revoke the licences (claiming that it is unconstitutional and illegal, as it violates freedom of expression), and also against President Muhammadu Buhari. In defence of the broadcasters, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-governmental organisation that protects economic and social rights in Nigeria, and the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) have come to the defence. Justice was swift: on 29 August, Judge Akintayo Aluko of the Federal High Court in Lagos issued an interim orderpreventing the revocation of the licences and adjourned the case until 8 September 2022.
The global Radio Maria network adds a new element in Africa, opening in Nigeria. It is the 27th African country (out of 54 on the continent) where the radio station is present. In Africa, Radio Maria also has another 29 radio stations with programmes in local languages. Fr Patrick Alumuku, director of communications for the archdiocese of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, announced in February 2022 that broadcasting would begin in the city on 91.3 MHz. The inauguration took place on 18 March 2022, while streaming was activated on 4 April 2022. In order to expand its presence in the country (where out of 206 million inhabitants 49.3% are Christian and of these 24.8% are Catholic), an initial group of five frequencies will be switched on in Kaduna, Owerri, Makurdi, Gboko and Ibadan, upon completion of fundraising.
Radio Maria, which finances itself with donations from listeners, periodically launches extraordinary subscriptions to expand into new countries. These are long live broadcasts called “mariatone”: the one for Nigeria was launched on 7th September 2020 by Father Livio Fanzaga, the true “soul” of the radio station, which he has been directing for 35 years.
While in South America it strengthens
The focus on the African continent does not divert attention from other locations: the broadcaster continues to improve even where it is already active. It was only a few days ago that a frequency was activated in Mexico at Guasave Sinaloa on 90.5 MHz. In Argentina (where it has 270 repeaters), the cities of Colonia Caroya (95.3), Jesús María (95.5), Villa de Totoral (96.1), Laborde (97.0) and Monte Maíz (97.0) have been added in the province of Córdoba; in the province of Santa Fe, the cities of Rosario (103.9, flanking 89.1) and María Teresa (94.9). The World Family of Radio Maria takes care of the affiliates: founded in 1988, it is a non-profit association that helps to spread the radio station by taking charge of the organisation and exchange of experiences of all the activities which can promote and develop the project in the world. The World Family of Radio Maria brings together all the national associations which develop a Radio Maria radio station in their own country.