Colombia suspends radio station

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October 28, 1998

 

His Excellency Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia

 

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is writing to condemn the administrative sanctions applied against Radio Caracol that could result in a three-day shut down of the station and the suspension of its nationally and internationally syndicated programs. The sanctions, ordered by the Ministry of Communications, stem from a June 18 incident in which sports commentator Edgar Perea urged listeners to vote for Liberal Party presidential candidate Horacio Serpa.

According to local journalists and press reports, Perea, who is currently a senator for the Liberal Party, routinely made political statements in favor of Serpa during his coverage of the World Cup soccer matches in June. During the June 18 match between Denmark and South Africa, Perea said, "Edgar Perea and the people of the group are drinking Aguila beer, which is the only thing Horacio Serpa will drink, [...], vote for Horacio Serpa!"

The Ministry of Communications argues that under Colombian law it has the right to shut down any radio station that broadcasts political commentary during a sporting event or is partisan in its political coverage. Because of alleged violations of this kind, Radio Caracol has been ordered to close for three days. The radio station has appealed the decision and remains on the air.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, we do not comment on the content of programs. We do strongly object, however, when a government censors or inhibits the free flow of information and opinion. We believe that the government's decision to seek to close Radio Caracol for three days violates the free speech provisions of the Colombian Constitution specifically Article 20 as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

We urge your government to abandon all efforts to close Radio Caracol, and to work toward the repeal of any legislation that can be used to restrict the flow of political opinion and commentary in the media.

 

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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His Excellency Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of Colombia
Bogotá, Colombia

Fax: 231 225 217