Costa Rica - UN
Eviction of Radio For Peace International in Costa Rica

Gaëlle Sévenier

November 1st 2003



Radio for Peace International (RFPI), in operation for the past 16 years at the University for Peace (U Peace) campus in Colon, 25 kilometres away from San José, accuses the president of the University, the Canadian counsellor for the United Nations, Maurice Strong, of evicting the station for political reasons. For the past week, RFPI's Director, along with staff members, decided to occupy the station.

In 1990, Francisco Barahona, rector of the U Peace - an organ of the United Nations - authorized RFPI, an independent and autonomous American radio station, to "construct a new transmitting building and antenna system on the campus" and to have "exclusive use of said installations." RFPI financed a specially soundproofed two storey building from which, independently from the U Peace, it broadcasts "the voice of the voiceless" throughout the world.

Last July 31st, the lawyer of the university gave an eviction notice to the RFPI, ordering it to vacate the station by October 31st. No reason for the eviction was provided and no financial compensation was offered. According to James Latham, Director and Co-founder of RFPI, "U Peace is denying the radio freedom of expression. What is most shocking and sad is that the eviction notice comes from an international peace organization."

Since July, the Radio station's access gate has been locked with chains and patrolled by armed guards employed by the U Peace, "as if we were criminals", denounces James Latham.

In order to protect the station, the director and staff members are spending day and night in the building expecting "hostile action". Meanwhile, friends and listeners are bringing them food and offering them their support. RFPI is asking the U Peace for an indemnity for the expenses of the construction of the building and for the relocation costs. "We are going to stay, there is no order from any judge forcing us to leave", declared Emily Morales, RFPI's Operation Manager.

The Ex-President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Corazo Odio, a member of the radio's Board of Directors, responsible for inviting RFPI to build and manage their station on the campus in 1985, laments the recent events. Last week, he told our reporter that he is using his influence to "avoid a conflict by every means". The Ex-President declared: "I have been looking for a peaceful and friendly settlement that is appropriate to a University and a Radio for peace".

The reason for the eviction remains a mystery. No one from the university wants to make a public declaration, despite the numerous attempts of our journalist. A legal representative of U Peace told the Tico Times that they are not obliged to provide any reason for evictions occurring on their property. "The employees are afraid to talk and loose their jobs" explains Latham, who accuses Maurice Strong of being responsible for the decision to evict the station.

Maurice Strong, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the UN and to the President of the World Bank, was nominated President of the Council of the University for Peace by the General Secretary of the UN, Kofi Annan, in 1999.

"As President of the Council, Strong is responsible for what is happening to us. He can make decisions, make changes; all the other members of the U Peace are saddened by the situation. I suppose it (the eviction) is for political reasons because of our criticism of globalization," declared Latham.

According to RFPI's Director, the station's journalists started to investigate the recent activities of the university: "We already knew that Maurice Strong doesn't like the press, as they have criticized him a lot in the past. The new focus of the University is now security, which brings a lot more money than just peace. They have invited members of the Honduran military and of the School of the Americas to visit U Peace. The fact that we (RFPI) are here in their back yard, that we can observe them and report on them probably makes them very nervous."

The Director characterizes the eviction from the University campus as an "act of censorship" and a "violation of the Declaration of the UN, with which the U Peace has to comply. For example, the University violated Article 19, which stipulates that everyone has a right to a trial. This wasn't an option for the radio station."

Emily Morales concludes by saying: "Radio for Peace International has put 16 years of work, money, blood, sweat and tears into this project, the U Peace, nothing. They think they can take those 16 years of investment and keep everything? That's what we are fighting against, this can not be possible!"


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