Media accused of skewed election coverage in Peru

Presidential incumbent receiving majority of support, ads

LIMA — Skewed media coverage is compromising the validity of Peru’s presidential race, international electoral observers have charged.

Peru held general elections Sunday in which president Alberto Fujimori ran for an unprecedented third term in a close race with Alejandro Toledo. “Reliable media monitoring reports have shown that news coverage continues in both private and public state television to be grossly disproportionate in favor of the incumbent president,” the joint Carter Center-National Democratic Institute delegation stated in a recent report.

Frecuencia Latina (Canal 2) devoted 90% of its election coverage to Fujimori in March, while America TV (Canal 4) weighed in with 51%, according to the election-monitoring group Transparency. The two stations are the most popular in Peru.

Staff ankles

Canal 2’s attacks against anyone who has slightly criticized Fujimori have led to the resignation of the station’s general manager, its principal news anchor and one of its leading reporters.

Toledo, who has closely trailed Fujimori in the poll, and who, the day after the election was projected to have lost the election to the incumbent, had been in the media hot seat in the run-up to the election. Among the most notable was when top-rated talkshow host Laura Bozzo aired an hourlong program on Canal 4 focusing on a 12-year-old girl allegedly fathered by Toledo, who denied paternity. The March 28 show coincided with his 54th birthday.

Although the original 1995 paternity case was dismissed by the Superior Court, the talkshow segment ended with the girl’s mother crying. Looking into the camera, Bozzo asked, “Should we trust a man who would do this?”

Of the 18 ad spots that ran during that show, 10 were for government programs and two were Fujimori campaign ads.

Since the broadcast, Bozzo has brought the case up daily and leads the audience in chants of “DNA” — an allusion to her demand that Toledo take a DNA test to prove that he is not the girl’s father.

Canal 2 then ran a similar anti-Toledo show featuring the young girl. TV stations have also been criticized for their refusal to accept advertising from opposition parties.

Pubcaster Canal 7 seemingly violated electoral laws that legislate all candidates be given equal airtime on the government-operated station. On March 26 alone, it ran 63 Fujimori political ads during its 18 hours on the air. No other candidates were allotted ad time.