University for Peace Community Liason Group

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      Tuesday, November 4th, 2003
Radio For Peace International Under Siege in Costa Rica

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The only shortwave radio station dedicated to peace and social justice in the Western Hemisphere is under siege by the UN mandated University For Peace where it is housed. In July, the university served an eviction notice to the radio station staff, who refused to leave. We go to Costa Rica to speak with the stationís CEO from inside the locked studios. [Includes transcript]


The only shortwave radio station dedicated to peace and social justice in the Western Hemisphere is under siege. Founded in 1987, Radio for Peace International broadcasts Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News, and other independent radio programs as well as United Nations.

Radio for Peace International is housed on the grounds of University for Peace, a United Nations mandated university located in El Rodeo, Costa Rica. On July 21st, the University served an eviction notice to the radio station staff. Armed guards employed by the University locked the stationís access gate and patrolled the premises. They ordered the staff to evacuate the facilities in two weeks. A number of Radio for Peace International employees refused to leave the station. Supporters delivered supplies and food to the locked station and a group of listeners is collected donations for a legal defense fund.

Well yesterday the United Nation's University for Peace began to use aggressive means to force the shut down of the station. At noon they cut off the water supply to the remaining 8 staff and volunteers holed up in the building. Four hours later the University cut the telephone lines. Security guards have turned away reporters and cameramen who have come out to try to enter the campus.

Since the University is owned by the United Nations, they are claiming immunity from all laws and law enforcement; the station has little power against this major act of censorship.


TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us on the line, we just got through to him, is James Latham, the C.E.O. of Radio For Peace International. He's speaking to us from inside the locked studios. Welcome to Democracy Now!, James.

JAMES LATHAM: Thank you, Amy. It's good to be here on your show.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what is happening? I also want to say, we are joined by Studs Terkle, who will be our guest for the hour, but if he has any question for you, he should feel free to ask you. What is happening right now?

JAMES LATHAM: At present, the staff as well as some listeners are inside the building. We have no way to leave or enter. There is -- there are guards posted outside. Our water has been cut, as I think you mentioned to the listeners, and the phone lines as well were cut yesterday about midday.

We're going to hold up here and protect the station. We're very concerned that if we leave, that the station will be shut down permanently, and things will be damaged at the radio station. We have been calling on the United Nations and the University For Peace to honor the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, in particular, article 19 of that declaration, that gives the right for individuals to impart information on media, and for individuals to receive that.

Our listeners are very concerned that the radio station will be cut off, and this very progressive voice will be lost to the international short wave.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, the head of-- this trouble started with the new President of the University For Peace, Maurice Strong, the former adviser to the President of the World Bank and head of the Council of the World Economic Forum?

JAMES LATHAM: That's true. The radio station has existed alongside working with the University For Peace for some five administrations in the past in very good harmony, helping each other with the projects and such. The -- when Maurice Strong came to the University For Peace in 1999, he indicated to us at that time that there wasn't going to be any changes. He had heard about the radio station and since we were self-funded through our listeners, he indicated that he was very pleased at that.

But Radio For Peace International has covered extensively the efforts of the anti-globalization movement around the world and the effects of globalization. We believe this goes contrary to the beliefs of Maurice Strong, who is a multi-billionaire, and-- the whole philosophy of the University For Peace has changed during his three years as President of the Council of the University For Peace. So, we believe it is this rift that has changed the stance of the University For Peace towards the radio station.

STUDS TERKLE: Mr. Latham, what country are you calling from?

JAMES LATHAM: We are here and greetings, Studs Terkle. It's remarkable and a pleasure to talk to you. We're calling from Costa Rica. And I'd like to point out that the Costa Rican government has tried to intercede and help us in this issue and provide mediation. They are very concerned about this, being that they are very involved with peace, and the President of Costa Rica has assigned a Minister to provide mediation, which is what we want to go into. But the University For Peace has refused that.

STUDS TERKLE: Jim, the reason I asked that question is I thought for a moment, as you were talking-- and Amy's announcing the news about all of the stuff that's granted to the President of the United States-- more and more the Pentagonian work, with one exception, that of Senator Byrd, the only voice-- you see, I thought that perhaps you were calling from Chile during the time of Pinochet, based upon what you're saying. Fascinating.

It occurs to me that what is happening in the Senate elsewhere and what is happening re: those who are putting you down, reminds me of the danger that at this very moment the U.S. Patriot Act is already at work. And you and your colleagues are under the gun right there, so the rest of the world has to know about that. Thanks to you, and to Amy and to people like here at WBAI.

AMY GOODMAN: James --

JAMES LATHAM: Yes, go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you continue broadcasting even as you are locked in there?

JAMES LATHAM: We do, Amy. The transmissions continue to go out. People will be hearing this show very soon over the airwaves of Radio For Peace International. We don't know how much longer that will happen before they-- they manage to cut the power lines coming into the station. So, our listeners may lose the signal very soon. We're hoping that doesn't happen.

We're filing an injunction to try to stop this, but the University For Peace is standing behind immunities given it because of its unique connection with the United Nations.

AMY GOODMAN: If people want to help, what can they do?

JAMES LATHAM: Well, they can check out their information on our Website. It is www.rfpi.org. We do need funding for legal defense fund to help, you know, in this case. They can get the word out to as many peace organizations as they can, and human rights organizations about this case.

So, we're also looking for some attorneys who would take the case on in the United States, and pro bono since we have-- our headquarters are in the United States, and they could help us with that. If anybody knows of good attorneys that would be willing to take on this situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, James Latham, I want to thank you for joining us. What frequency are you at Radio For Peace International?

JAMES LATHAM: Okay. On short wave, we're at 7445. We're broadcasting throughout the night into North America and Europe and all over Central America, and the Caribbean in the daytime.

AMY GOODMAN: If they throw you out, can you go to another site to Broadcast?

JAMES LATHAM: It will be very difficult, and the station may have a disruption of some time before we can relocate. The short wave station is a pretty complex thing, and trying to relocate it is not going to be easy. We have offers for some land to rebuild on, but the buildings that our listeners have built, this building that I'm in right now, is something that we cannot take with us, and we have been asking the University For Peace for compensation for that move, and compensation for the building, and to this date, they have not offered the radio station any compensation for that.

AMY GOODMAN: James Latham, I want to thank you for being with us. We'll continue to talk to you. You're still in there. That's right. Behind locked doors. You've got the Costa Rican government on your side, and the University For Peace now led by Maurice Strong trying to throw you out. Thank you for being with us, James Latham, C.E.O. of Radio For Peace International, speaking to us from inside the locked studios of this short wave radio station- the only one dedicated to peace and social justice in the Western Hemisphere. You are listening to Democracy Now!.

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