IAPA rejects Peruvian bill that aims to control management positions in media outlets

Update (April 5): The controversial Peruvian bill that seeks to regulate who can hold management positions in media outlets was withdrawn. However, the authors of the project, the congress members of the party Fuerza Popular, Úrsula Letona and Alejandra Aramayo, proposed a new version, La República reported.

The new document eliminates just two points from the previous version, according to La República.

The new bill no longer contains paragraph 3 of article 2, which prevented media executives who are being investigated by the Public Ministry from continuing to exercise their functions. Under the new bill, those with a sentence would be permanently prohibited.

Nor does it include article 3 of the previous version, which proposed the creation of a dependence on the Ministry of Transport and Communications that would oversee the content of media, Gestión published.

In this regard, congressman from Fuerza Popular, Kenji Fujimori urged his counterparts to retract the bill. According to La República, Fujimori said that this legislative initiative hurts the country and his own party.

Concerning the new bill, the president of the Peruvian Press Council (CPP for its acronym in Spanish), Bernardo Roca Rey, said that “in spirit there were no changes” compared to the previous one. This new version continues to violate the Constitution because it decides who can communicate, going against the right to information, Roca Rey said to La República.

Original (March 27): The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) qualified a Peruvian bill that seeks to control who can hold executive positions in media outlets “a tool for direct censorship of the press.”

Article 2 of the bill, “Law to protect the informational freedoms and rights of the people,” proposes that any person who is sentenced, or who is being investigated by the Public Ministry for corruption offenses against the State is disqualified from occupying any managerial position in a media outlet.

They would also be prevented, under this bill, from holding positions as presidents or board members, shareholders, general managers or attorneys.

“This initiative is alarming, which becomes a legal instrument for an authoritarian government to accuse, name and prosecute a journalist or the editor of a media outlet with the intention of moving aside and silencing him or her,” said IAPA President Matt Sanders.

Roberto Rock, president of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, also said that “the bill sets out as the objective to guarantee the right to impartial, truthful, plural and timely information, which was the same proposal used by Presidents Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador to adopt communication laws with clauses aimed at creating a strategy of legal and legitimate censorship.”

This legislative proposal was presented on March 7 by two congressmen of the Fujimorista party Fuerza Popular, Úrsula Letona and Alejandra Aramayo.

Sanders and Rock said they hoped that the Peruvian Congress would not take up the bill on the grounds that approving it would be returning to dark times in Peru, where press freedom was "hijacked by the Alberto Fujimori government.”

In Peru, voices against the Fuerza Popular bill were not long in coming. The president of the Peruvian Press Council (CPP for its initials in Spanish), Bernardo Roca Rey, said that it is inadmissible that a newspaper director could be disabled with only one lawsuit, newspaper La República published.

"You can not imagine that there are people who support this type of censorship of the press. But history shows that the majority of countries that are heading toward the dictatorship of ideas hinder freedom of expression. In Peru, we need a large and broad press freedom," Roca Rey said.

Augusto Álvarez Rodrich, the former president of the newspaper Peru.21 and current president of the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) of Peru, told La República that this bill is "one more monstrosity invented by the Fujimorismo to limit freedom of expression."

He added: "Fuerza Popular is creating conditions to bring judgments to media executives and have them manipulated, which has been the fujimorista custom."

Likewise, Claudio Paolillo, former president of IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, told newspaper El Comercio that the project “represents a direct attack on freedom of expression (...) It is an old story that politicians in Latin America have applied to determine what is objective and truthful,” he said.

For Gonzalo Zegarra, former president of CPP, this is the “ideal rule” that Alberto Fujimori’s former presidential adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos, would have wanted. He controlled the Judiciary during the decade Fujimori was in power in order to neutralize the media, he told El Comercio.

One of the authors of the bill, Úrsula Letona, told El Comercio that what is wanted with this law is to protect the right to information.

Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed the Declaration of Chapultepec on May 3 before an international delegation of IAPA, in celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

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.