February 22, 2000
His Excellency Alberto K. Fujimori
President of the Republic of Peru
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to protest the court-ordered confiscation of broadcast equipment used by the independent station Radio 1160. Ostensibly, the equipment was seized in compensation for an old debt. But according to CPJ's sources, the real purpose of the February 16 raid was to silence journalist César Hildebrandt's recently-launched program "Ondas de Libertad" ("Freedom Waves"), which has aired critical views of Your Excellency's regime.
The night before the raid, Hildebrandt broadcast an interview with Your Excellency's ex-wife, Susana Higuchi, who is currently an opposition candidate for Congress. During the interview, Higuchi accused you of corruption. At approximately 8:40 a.m.--just after a second broadcast of the interview--officials raided Radio 1160's studios and its transmitting facility, located in two different Lima districts. The action was ordered by the 47th Lima Civil Court.
The actions were carried out under the pretext of collecting a debt of US$113,000 owed by the Empresa Radiodifusora Marconi company, which owns Radio 1160. The creditor is local businessman Franco de Ferrari, son of the late Vittorio de Ferrari, who once owned Marconi.
This pretext seems suspect, however, given that de Ferrari and court officials rebuffed Radio 1160's attempts to settle its debt. During a press conference held after the raid, Marconi's general manager Federico Castro displayed copies of notarized letters sent to de Ferrari on February 7 and 8, in which Marconi offered to clear the debt. De Ferrari did not reply to either letter.
Castro also showed reporters three checks that he had used to try and settle the debt during the raid itself. The officials refused to accept these checks. Castro claimed the value of the confiscated equipment totaled about US$300,000, or more than twice the amount that it owed.
This seizure clearly violates Article 2, Paragraph 4 of Peru's constitution, which forbids any "action that suspends or closes any organ of expression or prevents it from circulating freely." The action also violates Article 651 of the Civil Procedure Code, which forbids the confiscation of any company's essential equipment.
CPJ believes that Radio 1160 was dismantled in order to silence one of the few independent voices in Peruvian journalism. With the April 9 elections approaching, Peruvians need independent media more than ever. But ever since Your Excellency announced that you were running for a third term (widely viewed as unconstitutional), officials have been clamping down on Peru's remaining venues for peaceful political dissent. We urge you to reverse this disturbing trend.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.
Ann K. Cooper