AMERICAN RADIO STATION ‘RADIO SAWA’ ILLEGALLY TAKES OVER BROADCAST FREQUENCY OF PALESTINIAN RADIO STATION ‘VOICE OF LOVE & PEACE’ AND IGNORES A PALESTINIAN COURT ORDER
On September 11th, 2005, in a sudden move, The Palestinian Ministry of Information closed the Voice for Love and Peace Radio Station and granted a broadcasting license to Radio SAWA to broadcast on the frequency 94.2 FM, which has been assigned to The Voice for Love and Peace Radio Station (VOLP) since 1996.
In accordance with the Oslo Agreement, the Palestinian Authority obtained the right to use 8 FM frequencies: VOLP’s 94.2 FM was one of them. The Telecommunications Law has emphasized that these frequencies are a national asset and a national wealth. In outright disregard, the Ministry of Information is licensing foreign radio stations and granting these limited frequencies to those foreign radio stations - thus denying the right of that national wealth to the Palestinian radio stations. Among these radio stations are Radio SAWA (which belongs to the American Government), the South Africa Radio Station, Vatican Radio, and the Israeli Palestinian Peace Radio Station.
Now, the Ministry of Information is denying VOLP a renewal to its broadcasting license. VOLP was one of the radio stations that carried the voice of Palestine on its frequency since 1995 through out critical times including the periods of the Israeli invasions which made VOLP targeted by the Israelis.
In April 2002 at the time of the Israeli invasion of Ramallah, VOLP was totally destroyed by the Israeli army. It remained in shambles for more than a year. The Palestinian Ministry of Information estimated the loss of VOLP, at the time, to more than $275,000 USD in addition to the operational running cost that the radio station faced through out the years of the Intifada (uprising), which exceeded $300,000 USD. But it did nothing to compensate VOLP for these losses, did not inquire as to why VOLP was not broadcasting nor did it inquire what it could do to support this station and get it back on the air.
Mutaz Bseiso, founder and General Manager of VOLP, said that as a result of the destruction caused by the 2002 Israeli invasion of 2002 of Ramallah and in order to maintain and save the frequency of VOLP from illegal pirate stations, VOLP agreed to sign a contract with the Radio Station SAWA and provide a rebroadcast service for a limited time contract, until VOLP regained its financial ability to go back on the air.
VOLP informed the Palestinian Ministry of Information about the provision of this service to the American Radio SAWA. Many meetings were held between officials from Radio SAWA and the Palestinian Ministry of Information with VOLP’s participation. As a result, the Palestinian Ministry of Information granted VOLP the green light to continue to provide the rebroadcast service that was agreed upon. Throughout the period of the contract, VOLP did not have any intention to give up the right to Radio SAWA or any other radio station of its 94.2 Fm frequency, but only provided the rebroadcast service for a limited time period.
The correspondence between VOLP and Radio SAWA proves that officials from Radio SAWA in the USA informed VOLP in writing many times that Radio SAWA is about to prepare their own radio station and would start broadcasting on a new frequency licensed by the Palestinian Ministry of Information. These steps were made in coordination with the American Consulate in Jerusalem. What VOLP did not know at the time was that Radio SAWA’s personnel representations were all false and that the Radio station SAWA’s personnel were in fact doing all they could to unduly deprive VOLP of the frequency that it had been using since 1996 without which they would be unable to continue with their broadcasts. These maneuvers, for which there is documentary proof , include improper actions that are inconsistent with the law. They also include the exertion on the Ministry of Information of the Palestinian Authority of US Government pressure to deprive VOLP of its frequency and bankrupt the company. The extent of the manipulation and pressure utilized became evident in the course of the legal proceedings.
Upon the expiration of the contract between Radio SAWA and VOLP on August 15, 2005, VOLP was surprised and shocked to find that Radio SAWA started broadcasting from its new radio station in Ramallah on the same VOLP frequency, thus pirating the frequency and depriving the Palestinian company of its rights.
To cover up its actions, the Palestinian Ministry of Information went to court to stop VOLP from continuing with its own broadcasts using its frequency, FM 94.2MHz. VOLP responded to the complaint and succeeded in obtaining an injunction against the decision to stop its broadcasts. Notwithstanding the court order granted in favor of VOLP by the Ramallah Magistrate Court, use by SAWA of VOLP’s frequency is continuing in a flagrant disregard of the rights of VOLP causing it to suffer grave, serious and continuing losses.
Radio SAWA’s outright disregard of the court Order in Ramallah and challenge to all Palestinian rules and regulations in the Palestinian authority area - raises many core ethical and legal questions about the internal control of this organization and its purported mission “to promote and sustain freedom and democracy by broadcasting accurate and objective news and information about the United States and the world to audiences oversees.” The conduct of the representatives of Radio SAWA makes a mockery of the key values the organization claims to uphold namlely, “integrity and defending [American] ideals,”
The unethical and illegal ploys and tactics employed by Radio SAWA personnel to unduly obtain 94.2 FM which belongs to the Palestinian radio station VOLP and to deny this station its right to this frequency is a travesty to universal laws and procedures. It is should be the subject of investigation by an independent US. Commission which could make its own judgment about internal control of US organizations abroad.
Throughout its ten year journey, VOLP has faced many obstacles but never gave up. It fought for survival through the most difficult of times. Considering the unethical and unlawful actions of Radio SAWA, VOLP will not hold back from using all possible legal channels and taking all possible legal actions against Radio SAWA and its Board of Governors, including suing them in the United States of America, to regain VOLP’s stolen rights.