The Channel 12 Affair

The firing of Mauricio Funes, and several of his co-workers at El Salvador's Channel 12 continue to stir protests and concerns about the freedom of the press in the country. Funes hosted a daily interview show which asked tough questions of those in power, and was fired at the insistence of the station's owners, the Mexican company AZTECA. Reporters Without Borders has a good article about the situation:
The decision by Salvadorean TV station Canal 12 to fire news director and presenter Mauricio Funes and seven other journalists continues to elicit criticism from many quarters, including President Antonio Saca.

"As someone who supports free expression, I regret that his programme has been stopped," said President Saca, a former sports journalist and radio producer, on 19 February, while stressing that he could not "meddle in company decisions as President of the Republic."

Herminia Funes, the president of the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), said on 20 February : "We have insisted that forums offering diverse news and information should not be closed, because the closure of these spaces is a harsh blow to free expression in this country."

Human rights ombudsman Beatrice Alamanni voiced her "concern" on 19 February about "events likely to obstruct the right to freedom of expression and undermine the practice of independent journalism."

Accompanied by demonstrators, San Salvador archbishop Fernando Saez warned on 20 February that "peace will not be attained by silencing the voice of the people."

In its 2004 report on the state of press freedom in El Salvador, Reporters Without Borders gave El Salvador a grade of "satisfactory."


David said…
Be sure to check out El Faro this week. Paolo Luers has a very different take on all of this, saying it's quite a salutary development that Funes is being replaced, just as he once replaced the very good Narciso Castillo, Like Paolo, I thought the NGOs who protested calling this assault on freedom of expression (likening it to death squad activity) don't have a case -- Funes himself doesn't even call it that. Channel 12 will be replacing Funes with William Melendez, a respected journalist and past president of the Association of Journalists (APES) -- which ironically signed off on the exaggerated NGO protest letter. El Faro also has a good editorial (all of the above links in Spanish).

So maybe it remains to be seen what the impact of this is. Funes is likely to get another job elsewhere, and Channel 12 may continue to provide better news coverage (actually, Paolo criticizes the technical coverage of the news as well) than its rivals.