The Washington DC-based Human Rights Watch organization Wednesday said Peru's President Pedro Castillo Terrones undermined freedom of expression after the head of state threatened to withdraw all state advertising from media outlets.
The arbitrary use of public funds to reward government sycophants and punish critics undermines freedom of expression, HRW's director for the Americas, the Chilean José Miguel Vivanco wrote on Twitter. Vivanco added that Castillo's speech is already known throughout Latin America when governments defund media that print things they do not like.
Vivanco's statements came one day after Castillo criticized the release of video footage of his recent visit to the southern city of Arequipa, where some people insulted him and demanded his removal from office.
I must condemn some nefarious attitudes of some media, Castillo said during his visit to the peasant community of Chopcca, in the Andean region of Huancavelica.
The head of state also claimed that, from his point of view, these media were pressing him so that, instead of giving water to the people, they be given a budget so that they speak well of the Government.
Castillo went on: I am not going to allow myself to give a penny to those who distort reality, to those who do not want to see the people, to those who want to believe otherwise.
These controversial statements also came the day after Energy Minister Eduardo González announced he would only deal with journalists who do not create problems for him. And Transport Minister Juan Francisco Silva has already lamented that the state-owned TV Peru channel was critical of the Government.
Peruvian media have also criticized Castillo for not giving any media interviews after winning the presidential runoff in June. In his public appearances, Castillo does not take questions from journalists and sticks to statements that admit no reply.
Castillo has repeatedly denounced media outlets for having described him as a terrorist for having led a dissident faction of the traditional Single Union of Education Workers of Peru (Sutep) which allegedly had ties with Movadef, the political arm of the Shining Path terrorist group, something he has always denied.