Reporters Without Borders today protested at the brutal closure of Radio Orión in Pisco, southwestern Peru, using a bogus administrative reason to mask an act of censorship after the government made serious accusations against its proprietor.
It also condemned pressure and threats made the same week against the community radio Cutivalú in Piura, in the northwest of the country, for refusing to broadcast an advertisement for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the content of which was contested by editorial staff.
In both these cases, the justice system should remind the authorities involved of the need to respect freedom of the press, the organisation said.
Some 100 police officers, accompanied by a magistrate, raided the premises of Radio Orión on 13 September 2007 and seized its entire broadcast equipment, claiming that the radio’s licence had expired four years ago.
In fact, the local and national authorities were angry at criticism aired by Radio Orión about aid and compensation to victims of an earthquake which destroyed almost 80% of the city of Pisco on 15 August. The governor had accused the station’s owner Eloy Yong Meza, of having incited the earthquake survivors to revolt. He has appealed against the closure to the courts, but under the law it will remain closed until the case is settled.
“The argument that the licence was not valid, which was used to justify the closure of Radio Orión is just an administrative subterfuge to mask an act of censorship,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Assuming the station’s licence had expired in 2003, why was it allowed to broadcast for four years? If, as we believe, Radio Orión was sanctioned because of its editorial line, such reprisals are a serious violation of press freedom. We hope that the appeal lodged by the station will rapidly be decided in its favour.”
“We also hope that agreement will be reached between the authorities and radio Cutivalú, which has a right to supervise advertising it broadcasts, even if it is official. The media is not there to be given orders”, said Reporters Without Borders.
The Jesuit-run and founded radio in Piura, Cutivalú, recently refused to broadcast a message from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, in relation to exploitation of new deposits in the region. The radio disagreed with statements in the advertising in relation to a public consultation exercise, planned for 16 September. The editor of Cutivalú, Rodolfo Aquino, who has been bombarded by telephone and email threats, has asked for protection. Despite his offers of dialogue, the government has made it known it reserves the right to take legal proceedings against the station.