Community Radio Reopens After Protests

December 4, 2012

Cross-posted from http://www.ayitikaleje.org

Port-au-Prince, HAITI, 3 December 2012 – A community radio silenced for a month by government authorities opened again on Saturday December 1 thanks to the mobilization of members of over a dozen community radio stations, press organizations and others in the southern city of Les Cayes.

On November 9, the state telecommunications agency – Conseil National de Télécommunication or CONATEL – shut down Radio Voice of Claudy Museau (Vwa Klodi Mizo - RVKM), a radio station founded on May 1 1996 by the Unified Popular Movement of Les Cayes (Mouvement Unité Populaire des Cayes - MUPAC). 

Radio VKM is named from a professor and democratic militant who was killed during the bloody coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (1991-1994) and is well known in the city and the region for its programs.

Haiti’s 1977 telecommunications law dates from the Duvalier dictatorship and does not recognize community radios, according to an institution that works with the stations, the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (Sosyete Animasyon Kominikasyon Sosyal - SAKS).

A new law has been ready since 2007, thanks to SAKS and other community media associations (Asosyasyon Medya Kominotè Ayisyen – AMEKA, and Rezo Fanm Radyo Kominotè Ayisyen - REFRAKA). So far, however, parliamentarians have not voted on it.

"Community Radios Won't Be Shut Down!" Photo: M. Milfort/HGW

Reached by telephone on Monday, the director of RVKM said he and others at the station were pleased with the result of last week’s protests.

“We are very pleased with the decision. It’s really welcome,” said Jean Claudy Aristil, who is also the news director. “This is an important step for freedom of the press in Haiti.”

The November 9 radio shutdown was denounced with vehemence in a number of communiqués from localand international organizations, and also in a demonstration on November 28. Dozens of members of community radio stations from across the country, joined by students and representatives of various organizations, filled the street in front of the CONATEL and Ministry of Communication buildings. 

“Community radios are the result of struggles by democratic and popular sectors! You can’t just shut them down!”

“Long live freedom of the press – NO to censorship!” 

“Censorship (a muzzle) is to democracy what lemon is to milk!”

These were some of the slogans on signs carried by demonstrators. 

“CONATEL is using the legal argument to close VKM,” Sony Estéus, director of SAKS, protested during the march.

During the demonstration, the Minister of Communication Ady Jean Gardy invited representatives to an ad hoc meeting.

“Censorship (a muzzle) is to democracy what lemon is to milk!” 
Photo: M. Milfort/AKJ

That consultation and other negotiations last week resulted in the re-opening of the radio on December 1, and the decision that all community radios would be allowed to operate “until the publication of a law… thanks to an authorization that will be published by CONATEL,” according to RVKM’s Aristil.

SAKS, which has worked with community radios since 1992, said it was cautiously optimistic about the government’s moves. 

“We have already supplied a list of the country’s 45 community stations to the relevant offices: CONATEL and the Ministry of Communication,” said SAKS journalist Claudja Jeanne Jocelyn.

   

Milo Milfort / J-Lab and Haiti Grassroots Watch

 RVKM is one of dozens of community radios across the country who partner with Haiti Grassroots Watch

 

Cross-posted from http://www.ayitikaleje.org