LIMA — Peru’s television industry is reeling in the wake of the Oct. 3 arrest of Ernesto Shutz, majority shareholder in Panamericana Television, Channel 5, on corruption and embezzlement charges.
Shutz is the fifth high-level TV executive or investor to be arrested in a corruption scandal that exploded in Peru in September 2000 and resulted in the impeachment of former President Ernesto Fujimori after 10 years in power.
More than 60 people, including generals, Supreme Court justices and congressmen, have since been arrested, and warrants are outstanding for another three TV execs from other networks.
A Peruvian judge ordered Shutz’s arrest after video and audiotapes were released showing Shutz receiving a $350,000 bribe from former national security adviser Vladimiro Montesinos to slant news coverage in Fujimori’s favor.
In the tapes, Shutz says he controls the network’s editorial line, and he barters with Montesinos over the amount he should receive for his support.
His payoff also includes promises that an alleged tax fraud and a fight with minority shareholders would be fixed in his favor.
A struggle for control of Panamericana Television began immediately after Shutz’s arrest. Former owner and minority shareholder Genaro Delgado Parker, who had been ousted, plans to retake control of the network that was launched by his father in the late 1950s.
More than a dozen Panamericana journalists, including the anchors of nightly news program “24 Horas,” have resigned.
Alejandro Guerrero, who handled special programming, was the first to ankle, predicting major changes in Peru’s beleaguered television stations. “Journalists must distance themselves from people like Shutz, who was part of the web of corruption,” Guerrero says.
Shutz was nabbed in Buenos Aires after leaving Peru the previous day, apparently with the intention of heading to Switzerland.
The new government recently honored Baruch Ivcher, owner of TV net Frecuencia Latina, Channel 2, for his fight to reveal the corruption.
Frecuencia Latina was the first TV network to openly accuse Fujimori and Montesinos. Ivcher was the only individual singled out in a Sept. 16 ceremony, attended by President Alejandro Toledo.
In 1997 Fujimori stripped the Israeli-born media exec of his Peruvian citizenship and confiscated his station and investments. These were restored to Ivcher after Fujimori’s impeachment.
Ivcher’s former partners, brothers Mendel and Samuel Winter, took control of the station and are now in jail on corruption charges.
“I was honored, but it was really my journalists who did the work. What I did was allow them the opportunity to investigate,” Ivcher says.
Also honored were cable news station Channel N, radio station Radio 1160, daily newspapers El Comercio, La Republica and Liberacion and weekly magazine Caretas.