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Peru10 March 2005

Municipal employees attack journalist in northeastern Amazonian region

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an assault on José Antonio Simons Cappa, the editor of the magazine El Huinsho, on 2 March in Yurimaguas, Alto Amazonas (in Peru’s northeastern Amazonian region), by municipal employees who beat him and confiscated the videotape from his camera.

"We protest against this brutal violation of press freedom, especially as it was perpetrated by public employees, and we call on the civil governor’s office in Alto Amazonas to identify those responsible," the press freedom organization said.

"We also ask for the return of the material confiscated by the assailants and we urge the civil governor’s office to provide Simons with the protection he has requested," the organization added.

The attack took place when Simons tried to film a public meeting given by Alto Amazonas provincial mayor Leonardo Inga Vásquez.

Giovanni Acates, the regional correspondent of the Peruvian press freedom organization Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), explained to Reporters Without Borders that Simons had for some time being investigating the mayor’s implication in several judicial cases, including cases of alleged corruption. At the same time, opinion polls show the mayor is losing support with local elections just one year way, Acates said.

Just when the meeting was about to address the mayor’s judicial problems, the mayor noticed Simons’ presence and tried to prevent him from filming. Simons fled, but two municipal officials, Rolando Pinedo and Fernando Fernández Rengifo, gave chase and caught him. They then beat him and took his camera, which was returned an hour later without the videotape.

The mayor has denied having anything to do with the beating and has accused Simons of insulting him.

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