Peru Gov’t won’t back away from canceling Radio La Voz’s license following Bagua protest broadcasts

Peru’s Transportation and Communications Ministry (MTC) will not rescind a resolution that canceled Radio La Voz’s broadcast license last year, the director of the radio station, Carlos Flores, told CNR news service.

MTC revoked Radio La Voz de Bagua’s broadcast license on June 8, 2009, three days after anti-government protests erupted on a remote jungle highway in the Bagua province of Amazonas department.

Leading members of President Alan García’s APRA party accused the station of inciting violence during the unrest. The official revocation order, however, made no reference to any alleged support of or incitement to violence, and justified the action on the grounds that the station had failed to meet the legal requirements set forth in its initial broadcasting permit from March 2007.

The deadly confrontation between protesters and Peruvian soldiers and police was the worst crisis since García took office in 2006.

Flores said he had a meeting last week with Deputy Minister Luis Cubas, who told him it was “inadmissible” to rescind the resolution.

“He told us that that proposal that the… revoking the resolution that closed Radio La Voz was impossible to comply with because that would mean that they would recognize that the minister [Enrique Cornejo] had been wrong,” Flores said. “And he told us that the minister is infallible.”

Instead, the deputy minister said he would help the station obtain one of eight frequencies that are to be put out to tender next week, according to Flores.

Meanwhile, press freedom advocates are planning to hold a meeting with Peru’s ombudsman, Beatriz Merino, to discuss the issue.

“The solution that has been proposed by the ministry of ‘don’t worry, take part in the competition again, because we can give you a new license’ is absurd,” said Adriana Leon, the head of the press freedom area at the Lima-based Press and Society Institute (IPYS).

“Mr. Flores is convinced, like all of us, that the radio was closed for political reasons.”

The Bagua protesters were demanding, among other things, the repeal of several Executive decrees enacted in 2008 by President García to provide attractive investment conditions for the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States.

Radio La Voz was awarded a Freedom of Expression Award from Index on Censorship, a UK-based organization which said the award “recognizes journalism of dogged determination and bravery.”

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