Invader's curse

 
Published: Monday 30 November -0001

-- It seems that television is following in the footsteps of 16th European invaders to Latin America. A British reality tv company has been accused of starting a flu epidemic that left four people from a tribe of isolated Peruvian Indians dead and others seriously ill. The regional Indian rights organisation Fenama, government officials and a us anthropologist working in the region said that a two-person crew working for London-based Cicada Films had visited the isolated Cumerjali community despite being warned not to.

According to the uk daily, The Guardian, the company was scouting for a location for a show in which two British presenters would live with a remote tribe, in exchange for gifts. According to the Peruvian government's protected areas department, Cicada was prohibited visits to remote communities. "The Cicada team entered remote headwaters which are part of the strictly protected zone," an official of the department said. Cicada denied the allegations. "When we arrived we found local people already ill," it said in a statement to government officials. "We believe that the illness could have been introduced by any group of visitors, who circulate constantly," the company added.

us anthropologist, Glenn Shepard, who met the film team on location, said he had urged them not to make the trip to the Cumerjali settlements, "where people were vulnerable to western illnesses". "Reality tv seeks ever more dangerous, remote and exotic locales and communities," he said. Stephen Corey of the international tribal rights organization, Survival International, agreed. "There has been a whole rash of bizarre and extreme programmes on tribal rights. The key issue here is sensitivity which is not often a priority for television companies," he said.

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