Ojo Público and RSF join forces to monitor media concentration in Peru

With the goal of producing an investigative report and a public information database, Peruvian investigative journalism site Ojo Público and international organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its acronym in French) have launched a project to monitor ownership of the most important media outlets in the Andean country.

The Peruvian initiative is part of the Monitoring the Ownership of Media (MOM) project that was born as an initiative of RSF, with the help of financing from the German government.

This year alone, the organization and its collaborators will develop projects in the Philippines, Turkey, Mongolia, Tunisia, Ukraine and Peru. Projects were implemented in Colombia and Cambodia in 2015.

“This is a very ambitious project because it seeks to establish the real dimension of economics and of audience of the major media groups in the country. As well as to identify the owners behind them,” said Óscar Castilla, director of Ojo Público, to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

The same methodology of the Colombian initiative will be used for the Peruvian project. In Colombia, the project found a concentation of media ownership by  few media groups that diversified assets in other sectors of the national economy.

At the moment, Castilla said, they are in the process of selecting 40 media outlets based on largest audience size and revenue. Taking respective audience sizes into consideration, they are evaluating 10 television channels, 10 radio stations, 10 print media and 10 digital media, he explained.

"On this basis, we also will determine the main groups financing the media and their real owners, with the goal of publishing the findings later this year," Castilla said.

In the project guidelines, Ojo Público and RSF pointed to media pluralism as a central aspect of democratic societies. They also highlighted that it is important for a democratic country to have diverse and independent media that reflect divergent opinions of society.

In the case of Colombia, RSF created the MOM with the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Fecolper for its acronym in Spanish), an organization of more than 1,200 journalists that monitors violations of press freedom and takes actions to protect journalists.

The stated objective of the MOM project is to defend human rights, particularly the rights of freedom of the press and of access to information of public interest.

As noted in the project’s main guidelines, based largely on the Media Pluralism Monitor of the European University Institute (Italy), media concentration has a negative social impact on pluralism and exerts a strong influence on public opinión.

In Peru, the market of media outlets shows the existence of a high level of ownership concentration.

This situation worsened in late 2013, when Grupo El Comercio, which already dominated with 49.3 percent of the national newspaper market, bought 54 percent of the shares of Grupo Epensa. It subsequently controlled 77.86 percent of the newspaper market.

Following the acquisition of these shares, a group of journalists sued El Comercio company – which is primarily led by the Miró Quesada family – for violating freedom of expression and media pluralism by buying another major media company.

Grupo El Comercio is not only dedicated to newspaper sales, but is also the leading multimedia publishing group at the national level.

The results of the MOM project in Peru will be released in December, Castilla said.

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.