Cancellation of TV news program prompts debate about freedom of expression and media monopolies in Peru

After a series of firings and journalists quitting because of complaints of censorship during the recent presidential campaign in Peru, the sudden cancellation of one of the most watched and credible journalistic programs in Peru has prompted a debate about freedom of expression and the impact of media monopolies on citizens' right to information.

The board of directors of América Televisión announced June 28 its decision to cancel the news program "Prensa Libre," or "Free Press," that for seven years was hosted by Rosa María Palacios. News of the cancellation first broke on Twitter, according to the newspaper Correo, and then was confirmed by the television station in a statement that said "Prensa Libre" would be replaced by a sports show as of July 1, according to Terra.

The substitution of a journalism program for a sports show has freedom of expression organizations, journalists, and even politicians questioning whether there are ulterior motives behind the decision and demanding that the board of América Televisión explain their reasons for canceling a news show that not only was popular and credible, but also making money, explained journalist Gustavo Gorriti.

For Gorriti, not renewing Palacios' contract was in fact "censorship", he said in a column in Revista Caretas.

Fore more reactions from journalists, see this Knight Center post in Spanish.

The Press and Society Institute (IPYS in Spanish) defended media companies' right to decide what content they prefer, but the group condemned reprisals against journalists who publish information or opinions of public interest. "We believe that América Televisión, in canceling Palacios' program, is a reprisal for having maintained editorial independence during the recent general elections," IPYS said in a statement, bringing to mind the recent string of action the newspaper El Comercio has taken in recent months to "discipline" its journalists who were against then-candidate, and now president-elect Ollanta Humala.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.