Ministry defends closing of RAM radio station

The seven RAM FM employees arrested Monday for operating a studio without a license remain under a week-long house arrest and gag order.

The seven RAM FM employees arrested by police Monday for operating a studio in Jerusalem without a license and released after appearing in Jerusalem's Magistrate Court on Tuesday, remain under a week-long house arrest and gag order. The English-language radio station plays Western music and aims to create dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. "The reality is that if we were an illegal radio station, we wouldn't have invested $2 million in it," RAM FM employee Raf Gangat said on Wednesday. "We're talking to our lawyers about the legality of the closing, and we'll have to see what happens." Communication Ministry Spokesman Yechiel Shavi told The Jerusalem Post there was nothing irregular about the closing or the arrests. "[RAM FM] is no different than anyone else," Shavi said. "Every week we act against two or three illegal radio stations. The moment they begin to broadcast without the correct permits, we shut them down." The ministry also said it was normal procedure to place people involved in pirate broadcasts under house arrest, "They put $2m. into an illegal radio station," Shavi said. "They could put $3m. into it if they wanted. Would that suddenly make them legal? There's laws, and everyone has to stand by them. It's a shame that people think this has political ramifications, because it doesn't. We deal exactly the same way with the ultra-orthodox, Arabic and Russian stations that operate without licenses as well." An unlicensed haredi radio station, Kol Haemet, said Wednesday that three of its employees were under house arrest, accused of endangering lives. Kol Haemet, RAM FM and other pirate radio stations are blamed for ongoing radio interference at Ben-Gurion Airport's control tower. Jerusalem police plan to continue their efforts against radio stations that operate without a license. "Based on reports from [Ben-Gurion Airport's] control tower, pirate radio operators had nearly caused more than one accident in recent weeks," said Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby. "Based on that, the judge decided to deal with the [RAM FM employees] in a serious manner." AP contributed to this report. Headquartered in Ramallah, RAM FM has a license from the Palestinian Authority, and maintains that it is operating legally over airwaves allocated by the PA, in coordination with Israel. The Foreign Press Association demanded the immediate release of the RAM FM employees and deplored the gag order, saying, "Their arrests raise particular concern about the issue of freedom of expression in Israel."