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Authorities close down one radio station for earthquake reporting, harass another for coverage on new oil fields

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF protests the brutal closure of Radio Orión in Pisco, southwestern Peru, which was done using a bogus administrative pretext to mask an act of censorship after the government made serious accusations against the station's proprietor.

RSF also condemns the pressure and threats directed against the community radio station Cutivalú in Piura, in the northwest of the country, for refusing to broadcast an advertisement for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the content of which was questioned by editorial staff.

In both these cases, the justice system should remind the authorities involved of the need to respect freedom of the press, the organisation said.

Some 100 police officers, accompanied by a magistrate, raided the premises of Radio Orión on 13 September 2007 and seized all of its broadcast equipment, claiming that the radio's licence had expired four years before.

In fact, the local and national authorities were angry at criticism aired by Radio Orión about aid and compensation delivered to victims of an earthquake which destroyed almost 80 percent of the city of Pisco on 15 August. The governor accused the station's owner, Eloy Yong Meza, of having incited earthquake survivors to revolt. He has appealed against the closure to the courts, but under the law the station will remain closed until the case is settled.

"The argument that the licence was not valid, which was used to justify the closure of Radio Orión, is just an administrative subterfuge to mask an act of censorship," RSF said. "Assuming the station's licence had expired in 2003, why was it allowed to broadcast for four years? If, as we believe, Radio Orión was sanctioned because of its editorial line, such reprisals are a serious violation of press freedom. We hope that the appeal lodged by the station will rapidly be decided in its favour."

"We also hope that agreement will be reached between the authorities and radio Cutivalú, which has a right to supervise the advertising it broadcasts, even if it is from the government. The media is not there to be given orders", said RSF.

The Jesuit-run and founded radio station in Piura recently refused to broadcast a message from the Ministry of Energy and Mines, about the exploitation of new oil fields in the region. The radio station disagreed with statements made in the advertising spot in relation to a public consultation exercise, planned for 16 September. The editor of Cutivalú, Rodolfo Aquino, who has been bombarded by telephone and email threats, has asked for protection. Despite his offers of dialogue, the government has made it known it reserves the right to take legal proceedings against the station.

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