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Staffers quit after tempers flare on air

Dispatch

LIMA — The staff of Peru’s top-rated weekly news program resigned en masse on Oct. 5, two days after the show’s host had an on-air spat with President Alejandro Toledo.

“Cuarto poder” (Fourth Estate) aired a 1998 video of Toledo celebrating the registration of his Peru Possibles party, which it claimed was critical evidence in a probe into whether some of the thousands of signatures necessary to register the party had been forged.

Furious over the video and the fact that his most vocal opponents were brought in to comment on it, Toledo phoned the show’s host, Carlos Espa, immediately after the story aired.

After complaining that the show was biased and its journalism shoddy, Toledo lost his temper, called Espa a “coward” and abruptly hung up.

“Fourth Estate” airs on America TV, which is owned by Peruvian dailies La Republica and El Comercio and Colombia’s Caracol group. The newspapers ran editorials on Oct. 5 criticizing the news show for exaggerating the importance of the video.

Exasperated by this lack of support, Espa, “Fourth Estate” director Rosana Cueva and America TV news director Julio Aliaga quit along with the show’s producer and four reporters.

America TV directors rejected claims that Toledo put pressure on them to force the resignations and yank “Fourth Estate” from the air.