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Senegal Government Closes Private Radio Station

In Senegal, a media owner is preparing to fight the government's shut down of his new private radio station. Officials say he did not follow the right procedures, but he says he is being silenced. For VOA, Phuong Tran has more from Dakar.

Radio station owner Madiambal Diagne looks over his new studio. Microphones are in place. The station's red, white and silver logo hangs on the wall.

But the transmitter that sends out broadcasts is missing. Police took that away on Thursday, when the station's first broadcast was scheduled. They delivered an order for Diagne to cease operations for 45 days.

Diagne shows the paperwork he filed in 2003 for a broadcasting permit.

He says that after three years he still had not been assigned a frequency, so he bought another radio station for $140,000, and took over its frequency.

He says for the past six months he did everything the telecommunications agency asked him to do.

He says when the agency said his satellite was too close to the airport, he moved it to another town.

Diagne says he received notice that his file was complete. And then the police arrived.

He says most people in Senegal know his media group, which also includes newspapers, has had a rocky relationship with the government.

In 2004, after Diagne published a confidential government memo that admitted internal corruption, the journalist was arrested and held in jail for more than two weeks on charges of endangering the country's security.

His arrest sparked a national media blackout and international condemnation.

Senegal's Regulatory Agency of Telecommunications says it closed the radio station temporarily, because it lacked proper authorization.

Diagne says the agency is using a law that has never been enforced or publicized.

Diagne says the law requires a presidential decree in order to broadcast. He says a decree takes years. The journalist adds that none of the dozens of radio stations in Senegal has received the decree.

Representatives from the telecommunications agency did not respond for comment on this report.

In 2005, some people participating in the "African Media Development Initiative" survey conducted by 17 research groups said Senegal's telecommunications agency was not neutral in assigning frequencies.

But in the same survey, Bacar Dia, Senegal's Minister of Information, said Senegal's government supports a free and independent press, but that many stations fail to submit valid applications.