Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission – Conatel – has shut down closed five radio stations Wednesday in the city of Cumaná, in the state of Sucre, it was reported.
The measure was believed to be another blow to freedom of speech, which has been severely damaged since the days of former President Hugo Chávez.
The stations affected were Café 100.9 FM, Radio NVH 102.1 FM, Cool FM, Radio Boom, and Mágica FM.
According to other Venezuelan media, an official who identified herself as Anabella González reportedly threatened Café 100.0 FM with administrative proceedings and confiscation of equipment if it did not turn off its transmitters.
It was the second time in a week that Conatel closed several radio stations in one day. In the state of Zulia, on September 9 it ordered the closure of nine stations in the cities of Maracaibo and San Francisco: Sensacional Stereo 88.5 FM, Zulia Mía 91.3 FM, KP 92.9 FM, Refugio 94.3 FM, Palabra 97.3 FM, High Class 98.1 FM, Destino 98.3 FM, Radiolandia 103.3 FM and Río Stereo 107.7 FM.
A Conatel official said the closures were carried out on orders from the Ministry of Communication and Information, according to National Press Workers Union leader Sheyla Urdaneta told Espacio Público.
Governmental opacity prevents us from knowing in a formal way how the regulatory entity operates in the country. Conatel does not offer public or updated information on the status of the concessions, which are denied or eliminated without procedures that guarantee due process, Espacio Público said while reckoning these measures are taken whenever a broadcaster is critical of the government.
The official showed up with a notebook and simply ordered us to turn off the equipment to avoid administrative actions. If we did not stop the transmission, the public forces would come to confiscate them, Café 100.9
Director William Bracamonte said. He also explained that the argument used by the officials to execute the measure was the lack of a project filed with Conatel.
We had barely one year of transmission. To introduce a project is an investment of two to three thousand dollars at the risk of being approved or not. While the managers ask for up to 10 thousand dollars, which we do not have, Bracamonte went on.
In the case of Café 100.9 FM, 40 direct jobs were generated and 150 other people depended on the broadcaster for their livelihood.
We had no choice but to comply with the measure, but we could not confirm that it was a direct order from Conatel, he said while insisting the station was available online at www.cafeconbracamonte.com.
Boom 89.7 manager Lorena Ríos announced that the good vibes signal Boom 89.7, complies with informing you that our Hertzian waves were interrupted, she said. She insisted procedures to legalize the station were advanced.
Other station directors preferred not to make any comment but stressed that they thought the measure was temporary because the equipment was not confiscated.
Broadcasters who filed for a license before 2017 must go back to Conatel and submit a new one, because those filed so far are no longer valid, according to media reports.