Television program critical of local government in Peru canceled

On August 26, 2014, a television news program that was critical of the local government in the Peruvian city of Ayacucho was canceled after threats were made against the company operating the TV station, according to news reports.

The Channel 55 program “Claridad” (Clarity), hosted by journalist Claudio Tapia, aired on week nights in Ayacucho. Tapia told the Lima-based Institute for Press and Society (IPYS) it was canceled by station owner Iván Bendezú Vargas after Corporación Daxi, the company operating the privately-owned Channel 55, received threats because of the program’s critical nature.

Tapia claimed that the threats against Corporación Daxi, which began a five-year contract in 2013 to operate Channel 55, came from the political party backing Wilfredo Oscorima, the governor of Ayacucho state. On his program, Tapia was critical of Oscorima, who is running for re-election in October, and has been accused of corruption, including misuse of public funds, according to news reports.

Neither Oscorima nor Corporación Daxi could be reached for comment. But Oscorima told reporters in June he was innocent of corruption charges.

Rosario Romani, a journalist for the privately-owned Ayacucho newspaper La Calle, told CPJ that the cancellation of “Claridad” represents a huge loss because it was the only independent and critical news program on local television. She said many newspapers, and TV and radio programs in Ayacucho pull their punches for fear of losing government advertising. In a communiqué, IPYS said that many of the corruption allegations against Oscorima became public thanks to the work of local outlets that avoided being coopted by authorities through official advertising.

After “Claridad” was canceled, Peru’s National Association of Journalists blamed the Oscorima administration for fomenting an atmosphere of hostility against the media in Ayacucho, which it described as the region with the second-highest number of physical attacks against journalists. The association accused Oscorima of funneling government advertising to friendly media outlets, and trying to silence critical journalists through lawsuits.

Tapia said he now plans to publish a weekly newspaper in Ayacucho, also called Claridad.