Police shut RAM-FM studio, transmitter

Communications Ministry says English-language W. Bank radio station was operating without a permit.

Citing the lack of a broadcast permit, Communications Ministry officials escorted by police raided the Jerusalem studio of the RAM FM Peace Radio station on Monday, seizing equipment and detaining several employees. Eight people working for the station were taken into police custody, according to the station's staff - though police said seven had been detained. "The station was closed because it does not have a license," a Communications Ministry spokesman said, noting that its broadcasts interfered with air traffic communications. "We closed down their Jerusalem studio, which is in sovereign Israeli territory. Every pirate station that lacks the proper license is closed in this manner," he added. A Jerusalem police spokesman confirmed that officers had escorted the ministry's officials to the studio. But a statement issued by the station questioned the legal basis for the raid. "On Monday afternoon, Israeli Ministry of Communications officials swooped on... the station. They alleged that the station is operating without the necessary broadcast permits in Jerusalem. The station maintains that it operates within the parameters of the law. The legality of Monday's detention and seizure of equipment are being examined by the station's legal team," the statement said. A source at RAM FM said the Ramallah studio, which is larger than its Jerusalem counterpart and broadcasts at 93.6 FM, would continue to operate. "We have absolutely no information on whether the station's staff members are under formal arrest," the source said. RAM FM employs approximately 50 people and broadcasts 24 hours a day in English from Jerusalem (on 87.7 FM) and Ramallah. It was launched last year by South African entrepreneur Issie Kirsh, who hopes to increase dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians through radio talk shows and music programs. "There is a need for a daily debate on the issues affecting both Israelis and Palestinians, and this is the driving force behind 93.6 RAM FM," Kirsh said when the station launched. The station's Web site describes it as a "fresh, English-language radio station that aims to promote bridge building and dialogue through contemporary music, plus the latest hits, high-profile guest interviews, talk shows and informational programs... [the station] will also provide reliable, impartial and independent news from the Middle East."