A local radio station's refusal to air advertisements for an upcoming speech by Louis T. Farrakhan has sparked criticism from a Muslim minister who says the station is trying to squelch Mr. Farrakhan's message.
Minister Jamil Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 6 on Garrison Boulevard said yesterday that WERQ-FM rejected three requests to air ads for Mr. Farrakhan's planned April 11 speech at the Fifth Regiment Armory.
"Is this Baltimore 1892 or 1992?" Mr. Muhammad asked. "How can they run ads for malt liquor but not Minister Farrakhan? We are being told that our money is no good? This is paid advertising. This is incomprehensible."
Mr. Muhammad said station officials bluntly told him Thursday that they would not air advertisements for Mr. Farrakhan's "controversial and potentially offensive" message to its listeners.
Officials from the radio station could not be reached yesterday. But lawyers for the Federal Communications Commission said that the station was within its rights and that it can air or reject any ad it chooses.
Roger Holberg, an attorney with the FCC, said radio stations can be selective in what they air.
"The only exception is they must give reasonable access to candidates running for federal elective office," Mr. Holberg said.
Mr. Muhammad said WERQ-FM was one of four local stations Muslims selected because it attracts a mostly black audience. The three other stations accepted the ads and have aired them, he said.
Mr. Farrakhan, the fiery and often militant leader of the Nation of Islam, attracts large, mostly black audiences at his speeches throughout the country. He last appeared in Baltimore in 1990.
Some community members -- both black and white -- feel his pro-black message is too extreme.
Mr. Muhammad said ads were rejected by WERQ-FM before station officials had heard them. "They had not heard any of the message. Just the name Farrakhan scared them off," he said.