Thursday, February 17, 2005

Loss of an independent voice in El Salvador

El Salvador struggles to have an independent press free of overt political bias to report on the issues facing the country. One television program which stood out for its independence in El Salvador was the interview show La Entrevista al Dia (Daily Interview) , hosted by Mauricio Funes. The show airs in the early morning in El Salvador. On Wednesday, February 16, as the show was starting, Channel 12 yanked the show from the air, with that day's guest already on the set. As reported on the web site of Probidad , Channel 12 is owned by the Mexican TV giant Azteca, and the word came down from management at the television station to pull the plug on the Funes interview show.

This is certainly not the first time Funes has been faced with Azteca pulling the plug. After the 2001 earthquakes, Funes reported on problems with how the government was handling international aid. Then president Francisco Flores complained to Mexican president Vicente Fox, who then complained to Azteca. Flores and conservative business interests in El Salvador boycotted Channel 12 for months afterwards. Read more at Global Journalist about this episode.

Today various social groups protested the Channel 12 saga. For Salvadoran democracy to mature, it needs independent voices in the media willing to criticize both the right and the left. If Funes does not return to the air, it will be a blow to governance in the country. Funes was a thorn in the side of the powerful in El Salvador. Apparently, those interests who did not appreciate his probing questions, have been able to remove that thorn.

(Thanks to David Holiday for the tip and his insights).

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