The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) has maintained its arbitrary ban on Radio La Voz de Bagua, a station based in Peru’s northern Amazonas region, refusing on 15 September to allow it to resume broadcasting. The station has been stripped of its licence since 8 June.
Radio La Voz de Bagua was accused of inciting violence in June during an outbreak of protests and rioting by local indigenous groups and clashes with the security forces. Reporters Without Borders believes the charges are unfounded.
According to the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS), a Peruvian NGO, the radio station has received three more communications from the ministry since July – two demands for the payment of fines for broadcasting violations in 2005 and 2007 and a legal notice concerning an irregularity in March of this year.
Reporters Without Borders today condemned as “bogus” and “dishonest” technical and official explanations given by the Ministry of Transport and Communications for banning broadcasting by the radio station La Voz de Bagua Grande in the town of the same name in Peru’s north-west.
The worldwide press freedom organisation called on the government, unhappy at the media’s support for recent indigenous peoples’ demonstrations, to respect rules for the station’s approval including time limits fixed by itself.
“No-body is fooled by the reasons advanced by the government for silencing La Voz de Bagua Grande. This comes after recent clashes in the Amazonian region between government forces and the indigenous population,” the organisation said.
“Several voices, both within the police and the government, have accused the station of encouraging the riots. If this accusation was well-founded, why resort to administrative and technical arguments to justify revoking the broadcast licence of La Voz de Bagua Grande? It is an act of censorship and intimidation. We call on the government to keep its own word and to allow the station the right to resume broadcasting”, it said.
The radio station’s licence was cancelled by ministerial decree on 8 June, but since 13 March 2007 it has had a ten-year frequency concession. This agreement allowed La Voz de Bagua Grande a 12-month period for authorisation and installation. The station director, Carlos Flores Borja, said he sent the ministry the documents required for certification on 29 January. This letter, supported by the municipality of Utcubamba, also said that the radio’s initial site had had to be changed for safety reasons. The ministry used this reason on 31 December 2008 to cancel the frequency authorisation before the end of the probationary period.
In fact, La Voz de Bagua Grande has been in the government’s sights since the clashes that shook the Amazon region at the start of June. At the height of the rioting, on 5 June, in which around 30 people died, the interior minister, Mercedes Cabanillas, publicly threatened to close the radio along with Radio Oriente, another station based in Yurimaguas, for their alleged “support” for violence against the security forces.
“The closure of Radio Oriente following that of La Voz de Bagua Grande appears to provide extra evidence of a serious press freedom violation on the part of the government”, Reporters Without Borders concluded.
(Photo : FENAMAD)