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U.N.-backed School Threatens to Shutdown Radio For Peace International

StoryJuly 29, 2003
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Administrators at the University for Peace in Costa Rico orders shut the hemisphere’s only shortwave radio station dedicated to peace and social justice. Station staff have locked themselves in the station. We go inside the studios to talk to station head James Latham.

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

The station reaches listeners around the world via shortwave radio. Shortwave operates differently from regular FM or AM radio waves, which can cover no more than about a one hundred mile radius. Shortwave transmissions have a lower frequency and therefore do not escape into the atmosphere like other radio signals. Instead, shortwave signals are reflected by an electrically charged layer of the upper atmosphere, called the ionosphere, and bounce back to earth far from their point of origin. Shortwave transmission requires no special equipment and allows listeners to tune in to stations around the world.

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 station’s 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 have not left the station since the eviction notice. Supporters are delivering supplies and food to the locked station and a group of listeners is collecting donations for a legal defense fund.

The current president of University for Peace, Maurice Strong, is a founder of the World Economic Forum and former special advisor to the president of the World Bank. Strong brought significant funding with him to the university in 1999 when finances were tight.

A past president of the University invited Radio for Peace International to build its facilities on the campus and relations have generally been positive between the two organizations dedicated to peace and social justice.

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