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Eight Peruvian journalists sue, accuse newspaper conglomerate El Comercio of media concentration

Last week eight journalists sued media conglomerate Grupo El Comercio before the Constitutional Court in Lima, Perú for its recent purchase of 54 percent of the shares of editorial group Epensa. The lawsuit claims that the purchase violates the constitution's statutes on media concentration and freedom of expression.

The plaintiffs calling for an annulment of the transaction are Enrique Zileri Gibson, founding director of magazine Caretas; Luz Helguero Seminario, director of newspaper El Tiempo-Piura; Gustavo Mohme Seminario, director of newspaper La República; Fernando Valencia Osorio, director of newspaper Diario 16; and journalists Augusto Álvarez Rodrich, Miroslav Lauer Holoubek, Rosa María Palacios Mc Bride and Mario Saavedra-Pinón Castillo.

The lawsuit calls "the judge to keep in mind, throughout the process, that this debate is about plurality and diversity being confronted by concentration and monopolizing. In other words, between democracy and informative totalitarianism."

The plaintiffs said they are trying to defend citizens' rights to receive plural and diverse information that they need to take decisions on their daily lives and emphasized that “plurality of ideas is indispensable for the democratic system."

Before the purchase of Epensa's actions, Grupo El Comercio (which owns newspapers El Comercio, Perú21, Trome, Depor and several magazines) controlled 49.4 percent of the national newspaper market and was already the most powerful media group in the country. It was followed by Grupo Epensa with a 28.66 percent control and Grupo La República with 16.39 percent. When it acquired 54 percent of Grupo Epensa's shares, Grupo el Comercio became responsible for 77.86 percent of the newspaper market.

Besides its political and democratic implications, the transaction could also have a significant impact on Peru's newspaper industry, magazine Semana Económica said. 

“Beyond the (lawsuit's) considerations regarding pluralism, Grupo La República recognizes the importance of Grupo Epensa as a commercial vehicle, especially for the strength it possesses in the regions outside the capital. That's why (Gustavo Mohme) was interested in purchasing Epensa and that's why he was concerned about it being purchased by the competition," the magazine said.


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