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Senegal: Radio Station Mired in Technicalities

For a while it appeared as if Madiambal Diagne might have found a way around the Senegalese government's apparent determination to keep him away from the airwaves. The well-known journalist and head of "Avenir communications" (Future Communications) had tried since 2003 to start a radio station, only to be told that frequencies were at saturation point -- this as pro-government persons succeeded in setting up stations, Diagne told IPS. Undaunted, Avenir bought a company that had already been allocated a frequency, Iso Trading Technologies (ITT), and established "Première FM" (First FM). The station looked set to become Senegal's newest private broadcaster. But now, it's at the centre of the newest press freedom controversy.

On May 31, Première FM's equipment was seized by police after the governmental Telecommunications and Postal Regulation Agency, Agence de régulation des télécommunications et des postes, (ARTP) accused the station of contravening various regulations. In one instance, equipment was said to have been imported into Senegal for the station by ITT without the necessary approval from officials. A second complaint alleged unauthorised use of a telecommunications link between Première FM's studios and its transmitters.

The veteran of Sud-FM (South FM, the first private station in Senegal) and of the government controlled Radio-Sénégal says it reflects the fact that competitors are "not happy" about the arrival of Première FM, and the prospect of losing well-known and experienced staffers to the new station. IPS could not obtain comment from government on the suspension of Première FM, which has 45 days to get in line with regulations.

Inter Press Service Johannesburg, 12 June 2007

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