It’s been a rough month for supporters of press freedom. Recent events in North Korea, Guatemala and Mexico do not bode well for a free and independent press. And today brings news of another country dealing with turmoil. Reporters Without Borders recently 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.
Reporters Without Borders called on the government because it was 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. The radio station's license was cancelled by ministerial decree on June 8th, but since March of 2007 it has had a ten-year frequency concession. This agreement allowed La Voz de Bagua Grande a 12-month period for authorization 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 December 31st, 2008 to cancel the frequency authorization before the end of the probationary period.
In reality, La Voz de Bagua Grande has been in the government's sights since clashes shook the Amazon region at the start of June. At the height of the rioting, on June 5th, 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.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but let’s hope that La Voz de Bagua Grande continues to broadcast and bring information to the people of Peru.