The Peruvian government has announced that Amazonian radio station La Voz de Bagua can finally resume broadcasting today after being closed for 14 months by ministerial order for allegedly supporting an uprising in the Amazonian port town Yurimaguas in which 30 people died.
The announcement was made yesterday by Prime Minister Javier Velasquez in a meeting with media representatives. “This is a political decision by the government, for which freedom of expression is fundamental,” he said.
La Voz de Bagua manager Carlos Flores Borja met on 11 August with deputy and communications minister Jorge Cuba Hidalgo to discuss how the station could be reopened but the meeting ended in failure and the deputy minister announced that the station would remain closed.
Reporters Without Borders hails yesterday’s decision, for which Peruvian and international media have been pressing for more than a year. It should not however divert attention from the fact that the authorities continue to threaten local media with closure, especially when they allow indigenous groups to use the airwaves to voice their demands.
16.08.10 - Deputy minister humiliates head of radio station closed for 14 months
Carlos Flores Borja, the manager of Amazonian radio station La Voz de Bagua, travelled all the way to Lima last week because he had been given an appointment with transport and communications minister Enrique Cornejo on 11 August to discuss the reopening of the station, which the government closed 14 months ago.
But in the end, Flores was received by deputy minister Jorge Cuba Hidalgo, who told him that the station will remain closed despite the promise that President Alan García gave last May to intercede on its behalf.
A ministerial order stripped La Voz de Bagua of its licence on 8 June 2009 although it had been broadcasting legally since 13 March 2007 on a frequency it had been allocated for a 10-year period.
The reason given by the ministry was the station’s failure to complete required paperwork. But the real reason was its alleged support for an uprising by indigenous groups in Yurimaguas that led to clashes in which around 30 people had died at the start of the month.
Like other local and national media, the station interviewed members of the indigenous groups while they were holding a dozen policemen hostage. Interior minister Mercedes Cabanillas reacted at the time by publicly threatening the station with closure. Reporters Without Borders wrote to the transport and communications ministry later that month about the case but never received a reply.
As well as objecting to the government’s discrimination against La Voz de Bagua, Reporters Without Borders also protests against last week’s humiliating treatment of its manager. Why did the ministry of transport and communications get Flores to travel all the way to Lima by raising false hopes?
And why is the government contradicting itself? Why is the president saying one thing and the deputy minister something completely different? The best way to ensure that this regrettable episode is forgotten would be to allow La Voz de Bagua to resume broadcasting.