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President García backs censorship of exhibition due to meddling by Armed Forces

(IPYS/IFEX) - The following is a 3 July 2007 IPYS press release:

TWO CASES OF INTOLERANCE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Instituto Prensa y Sociedad deplores the support of President Alan García to the censorship of an exhibition of journalistic illustrations by painter Piero Quijano, sponsored initially by the National Institute for Culture (INC). This display of support, inappropriate from someone in his position, aggravates an overbearing act committed by the INC that we have already criticized, and reveals a degree of governmental intolerance that we reject.

(On 30 June 2007, the president spoke about the censorship of Quijano's illustrations, saying, "It cannot be permitted that the Armed Forces be insulted in a public place, and I personally will not allow it. You have the street, your home, a thousand galleries all over the place, you have 'Perú 21' newspaper, to do that." He also said that the INC official's actions did not constitute censorship because "the artist has not been prevented from continuing to produce his works, nor from disseminating them throughout the country.")

On the afternoon of 30 June, after the president's comments, the president's office also issued the following press release admitting that censorship had occurred. The statement read, "The Chief of State said the National Culture Institute had censored artist Piero Quijano's exhibition because it cannot be permitted that the Armed Forces be insulted in a public place."

Leaving aside the content of the censored drawings, which illustrated journalistic articles about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, the privatization policy and the president's paternity, the interference of the Executive to censor cultural exhibitions promoted by the INC is unacceptable. As well, it has been proven that certain authorities in the Armed Forces intervened to censor Quijano's show, and that the INC lied about this in a public memorandum. For this reason we believe that its current director should resign from her position.

We also want to warn about the danger posed to freedom of expression by the suit filed by the Minister for Production, Rafael Rey, against historian Nelson Manrique, and the unlawful sentence issued by a Criminal Court. Manrique exercised his right to give his opinion about the role of Mr. Rey as leader of the political association CODE, accused of falsifying signatures.

Peru's Supreme Court has established that the right to formulate an opinion is legitimately exercised if the expressions questioned deal with issues of public relevance, and if they do not include objectively or formally abusive phrases, as is clearly the case with the articles published by Manrique in the newspaper Perú 21 that brought on the lawsuit. It would be desirable, as well, that public persons should be more tolerant towards criticism, even of the harshest kind, as they voluntarily took on a role that puts them under society's scrutiny.

That a judge would condemn a citizen for expressing his opinion and a President endorse a run-of-the-mill act of censorship, are, in our view, dangerous episodes in a democratic country. Faced with both, IPYS expresses its preoccupation and condemnation.

Lima, 03 July 2007

The Executive Council
Gustavo Gorriti (President), Mirko Lauer, Edmundo Cruz, Augusto Álvarez Rodrich, Cecilia Valenzuela, Santiago Pedraglio, Ricardo Uceda (Director)

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