Just days before the arrival of extreme right wing Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency of Brazil, outgoing Brazilian President Michel Temer, suspended the licenses for about 130 community radios across the South American country on the last day of his government. The decision was published on 31 December 2018, without time for a public debate on the matter.

The Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC) published the decision in the Official Gazette, marking the end of 130 Community Radio Stations in several cities in Brazil. Only in the Bahia region, 14 community radios were forced into closure in the cities of Amargosa; Aracatu; Belo Campo; Brejões; Camaçari (FUNASC); Campo Formoso; Candiba; Itororó; Morro do Chapéu; Riachão das Neves; Sátiro Dias; Simões Filho; Várzea da Roça (A.C.C.B.V.V.) and Vera Cruz.

Pedro Martins, Brazil’s national representative of the Global Association of Community Radios (AMARC), said the decision “is clearly persecution against the sector that represents the voice of the communities, the people’s voice in the country’s communication.” The ministry didn’t elaborate on the reasons for the decision, says Martins, and there was no time for debate within society.

The Brazilian Association of Community Radios (Abraço) recently called out the government for favoring bigger commercial radios while grassroots communication faces great difficulties.

ommunity radios face countless difficulties, beginning with the lack of funds,” said Abraço at the moment. “At the end of the day, they only possess one source of income through cultural support, which is limited to their communities and some imposed restrictive conditions.”

Both organizations are critical of the law on community radios passed in 1995 during by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, which they say “criminalised” them instead of regulating and benefiting them.

The law (9,612) sets only one frequency for the use of community radios and limits their reach to about a kilometer by setting their maximum potency to 25 Watts and the transmitting system to 30 meters high. Many of the radios work beyond this reach, as communities are spread in larger areas, and they risk being accused of radio piracy by the law inherited by the last dictatorship.

There were about 30,000 community radios in Brazil before the law was implemented. According to AMARC, there were only about 10,000 left in 2018, out of which only 4,500 were authorized by the government.