WPFD2015Montreal, April 30, 2015. On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2015, the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) launches its International legal protection and global advocacy program for the community media sector. Despite great regulatory advancements of the community media movement at the international level, on the national level, the lack of clear legal frameworks, or their complete absence, is still an impediment to the full development of the community media sector as a public space for dialogue and debate.

Recently, this dichotomy became evidence. In 2014, Radio Estéreo Luz and Radio La Voz de Sonora, located in the western department of Quiché, Guatemala, have been shut down and their equipment have been seized. In Egypt, Internet Radio Horytna was recently persecuted because of illegal internet streaming. In April 2015, in Mexico, Abel Manuel Bautista Raymundo, founder and director of Radio Espacio 96.1 FM in Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca state, was murdered. In Sweden, commercial radios are still operating on community radio frequencies. This indicates that community radio licences are becoming less a resource for non-profit associations and more an opportunity for commercial operators who can circumvent the formal commercial radio sector and its official responsibilities, including concession fees to the government.

These recent examples show the need of an International legal program for community radios. “With this program – commented Francesco Diasio, Secretary General of AMARC – we want to address the legal issues related to community broadcasters with both a proactive and reactive approach. The first approach will foster and enhance the policy work to be done with other Civil Society Organizations and policy makers to ensure that frequency planning, technical standards for telecommunications and radio, and development resources are giving a high priority to the needs of civil society. On the other hand, the creation of a legal office will support the community media sector under the perspective of access (new broadcasters) and defence (broadcasters in danger).”

Community radios are front-line actors in the defense of the right to communicate. They remain the guarantors of pluralism, defenders of freedom of information and exchange of ideas. Their contribution is crucial for the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.