The closure of “troublesome” broadcasters continues, with the usual suspension orders sent by Conatel (National Telecommunications Commission), which has been very active in recent months. The script is the same: the broadcaster isordered to close down for failing to comply with legal procedures, says Leonardo Pérez, national secretary of the National College of Journalists in the state of Zulia, and because they have usurped space occupied by other stations that broadcast legally. But, in reality, the objections seem to be made for no apparent reason. The climate of intimidation is such that some radio stations close as soon as they receive a phone call from Conatel. There are now a hundred of them. Here is a chronicle of the last two months.
On 6 September 2022, the first eleven stations between Maracaibo and San Francisco were shut down. About a hundred people are left without work, estimates by the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP). Two days later (Thursday 8 September), two more stations have to leave the airwaves. Here is a summary of the deactivated stations: 88.3 Candela FM 88.5 Sensacional Estereo “La FM de las estressas” 91.3 Zulia Mía “La señal de los zulianos!” 92.9 Kp Radio “La gigante del Zulia!! 94.3 Refugio FM 97.3 Palabra FM 98.1 High Class “Somos la #1 en gaitas” 98.3 Destino FM 103.3 Radiolandia 102.7 Suave FM 107.7 Río Stereo (Written by Fabrizio Carnevalini)
The Venezuelan regime of President Nicolás Maduro hardly makes headlines when it shuts down inconvenient stations. The Web documents deactivations on an almost monthly basis, but in July 2022 Conatel (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones) officials worked overtime shutting down as many as six stations in Cojedes state. The raid always occurs on Fridays: July 1, 15 and 29, 2022. First to pay the price was Candela 92.9 FM in San Carlos, where officials (apparently entered without a warrant to check the regularity of the license, along with two prosecutors, intelligence officers and national police) seized the transmitter and mixer, leaving ten people out of work. Same script on July 15, when members of the Bolivarian National Guard, shut down Moda 105.1 FM, NEX 100FM and Hits 92.5 FM, all from San Carlos (another 30 workers on the street). The last to receive a visit from Conatel officials were Luna 95.5 FM (Mango Redondo) and Impacto 91.7 FM (San Carlos). A total of sixty workers on the street. Twelve stations were closed in 2022.
The Central American country is one of the most dangerous in the world for journalists: an estimated 200 have been murdered in the last 30 years, not counting hundreds of attacks and intimidation. To defend them, and to prevent attacks on them and the media from going unpunished, thirteen Mexican media groups have formed an alliance. Its members are: El Universal, Proceso, Cámara Nacional de la Industria de la Radiodifusión (CIRT), Eje Central, El Heraldo, Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), La Silla Rota, Publimetro, El Dictamen, Politico Mx, Vanguardia Mx, El Economista y Debate. The association (Alianza de Medios Mx) not only defends, promotes and protects the rights of freedom of expression, but also offers support to file complaints on freedom of expression and requests assistance in case of attacks.
President Nicolas Maduro’s regime holds broadcasters in check by imposing sanctions or closures. Hence journalists are self-censoring to avoid trouble. The radio stations are kept a check on by Conatel (Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones), the Venezuelan telecommunications regulator, which is very quick to revoke broadcast licenses of ‘rogue’ radio stations. They closed over 60 broadcasters in 2018. The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores del Prensa has reported that another 27 radio stations have suffered loss of equipment due to theft.
Rumbera has relocated to the Internet
The latest broadcaster to end up in the sights of the inspectors is a radio station of Rumbera Network (one of 21 stations) that transmitted on 106.9 FM from Los Valles del Tuy, in the state of Miranda. In February 2020 their antenna was damaged and then on May 15th, 2020 Conatel closed them down because their broadcasting license had expired. This was a decision that the owner, Eliu Ramos, deemed discriminatory because a large number of radio stations transmitting in the country have not been authorised and are not sanctioned. He added that he had applied for a renewal of the license several times, but the application had always been declined. Transmissions now continue on the Internet.
To find out more
The Venezuelan periodical, El Carabobeño gives more details onthe situation of broadcasters here. It was published on May 20th, 2020, on the occasion of National Radio Day which was established in 1926 when the country began radio transmissions on mediumwave. FM transmissions, on the other hand, began on January 1st, 1975.