Stations drop Pacifica contract over prisoner commentaries
PENNSYLVANIA–In late February, Philadelphia radio station WRTI cancelled its arrangement to carry Pacifica Radio programming only a few hours before commentaries of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a convicted Death Row inmate, were to be aired.
Although executives from Temple University, which owns the FM jazz station, said they had been deliberating canceling Pacifica broadcasts earlier on WRTI and twelve affiliated stations, their decision was “accelerated” by the news that the 13 recorded commentaries were to be aired as part of Pacifica’s morning show, “Democracy Now.”
WRTI also stated that the decision was influenced by the fact that National Public Radio had decided not to run Abu-Jamal’s commentaries in 1994. Both sets of broadcasts were recorded by Prison Radio Project.
Pacifica has charged that the radio stations are denying Abu- Jamal his rights of free speech. A former radio journalist, Abu-Jamal was charged in 1981 for killing Philadelphia police officer David Faulkner, and has been on Death Row for 15 years.
Abu-Jamal started his commentaries three years ago, discussing his life in prison and his experiences on Death Row, among other topics. According to Pacifica, he does not discuss his case, which is currently on appeal before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the radio network does not take a position on his innocence or guilt.