Media repression eases further in Peru
By Freedom Forum Online staff
|Baruch Ivcher, center, waves to his employees outside of
Frecuencia Latina TV station as he arrives to regain control of station in
Lima, Peru, yesterday.
The fall of Peru's authoritarian government brought the first signs of
an easing of media repression this week with the release of one journalist from
prison and the return of a television station to its rightful owner.
Yehude Simon Munaro, former director of the Peruvian magazine
Cambio, was released last weekend
after serving eight years of a 20-year prison sentence, according to the
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN in London.
Simon Munaro, a former leftwing member of Congress, was arrested in
June 1992 and convicted of supporting terrorism through his writings in
PEN points out that although a national commission "had long
since found him innocent," former president Alberto Fujimori refused to
sign the papers ordering his release. With the fall of Fujimori and an interim
government in place, "this situation has at last been redressed,"
according to PEN.
The new justice minister, Diego García Sayín,
personally went to Lima's Castro prison to lead Simon Munaro out.
On leaving prison, Simon Munaro an honorary member of the
Canadian, English and Swedish PEN thanked all who had campaigned on his
behalf, but added, "I cannot be completely happy when I know that this
very prison still holds many innocent people, people who deserve a chance. I
cannot sleep soundly while they unjustly serve out their sentences."
According to PEN, five journalists remain in Peruvian prisons: Antero
Gargurevich Oliva, Juan de Mata Jara Berrospi, Hermes Rivera Guerrero, Javier
Tuanama Valera and Pedro Carranza Ugaz.
Meanwhile, an Israeli-born businessman yesterday regained control of a
television station. His supporters viewed the development as a possible turning
point in the fight for press freedom in Peru, stifled by a decade of Fujimori
rule, the Associated Press reported from Lima.
"'I feel thrilled, I feel fabulous, we are home again," said
Ivcher, who was swarmed by hundreds of supporters and journalists as he entered
Channel 2 for the first time since 1997, when the station was taken from him
after he aired reports linking Peru's military to corruption and torture.
Dozens of helmeted riot police stood guard outside the station
throughout the morning as lawyers and judges inside completed the paperwork to
legally transfer the station to Ivcher, a changeover that was expected to be
tied up in litigation.
The fall of Fujimori's government last month during a tumultuous
corruption scandal opened the way for Ivcher's return to Peru on Dec.
However, he says that his station is in shambles, estimating that it
is now $20 million to $30 million in debt, despite $8 million he left in its
The government stripped Ivcher of his Peruvian citizenship in 1997
after his station broadcast a series of reports implicating the military in
torture and political espionage. Since foreigners are prohibited from owning
media companies in Peru, a court than took control of the station from Ivcher
and gave it to pro-Fujimori minority shareholders. Fearing for his life, Ivcher
later fled the country to live in Miami.
Fujimori resigned in disgrace on Nov. 20. Critics have long contended
that Fujimori systematically suppressed Peru's independent media with smear
tactics, harassment, legal entanglements and selective access to government
advertising money and information.
The repression led the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
to label the regime an "infotatorship." Last year the same watchdog
group put Fujimori on its list of top 10 enemies of the press worldwide.