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Peru12 April 2006

Chimbote-based journalist flees Peru after repeated threats

Reporters Without Borders voiced anger and regret today that Marilú Gambini Lostanau, a freelance journalist based in the western city of Chimbote, has had to flee the country with her two children following repeated death threats.

“The rule of law has failed when journalists are forced to flee the region or country where they live and work because of the risks to which are exposed,” the press freedom organisation said. “We are furious that Gambini has had to flee, as the authorities have been aware of her situation for years.”

“Reporters Without Borders added: “The fact that she had police protection does not exempt the local authorities from the obligation to investigate the threats she received, which almost certainly had their origin in the stories she has worked on. Without going so far as to talk of complicity, we think there are grounds for suspecting the authorities of negligence in their handling of her case.”

Gambini was assigned a police bodyguard by the civil governor’s office in Chimbote in 2000 after repeatedly receiving threats as a result of her coverage of sensitive issues, especially drug trafficking.

In a 2004 report, Gambini alleged that a Mexican drug cartel consignment was shipped through the naval base at Chimbote. On 28 March 2005, two men posed as bricklayers in order to get into her home, attacked her and robbed documents. Intruders broke into her home again in her absence on 21 May 2005, taking videotapes. She thought the second burglary was not related to her work.

25.05.05 - Burglars strike against Marilú Gambini Lostanau for a second time

Two men broke into freelance journalist Marilú Gambini Lostanau’s home for a second time on 21 May 2005 and stole several videotapes. The journalist, who was not at home at the time, said she considered it "commonplace" and reported it to the police station in Chimbote, western Peru. She said the stolen videotapes did not contain any information about her journalistic work. Two men used the same means of getting in on 28 March, to steal papers from her. One of them held the journalist, while the other one searched the apartment, evidently looking for particular documents which they then took away. Gambini Lostanau exposed the fact that a consignment of drugs belonging to a Mexican drug cartel transited through Chimbote naval base in an article that she published in April 2004. She is under personal protection ordered in 2000 by Chimbote police after she had received repeated threats.

4.04.05 - Intruders restrain journalist in her home, steal documents

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an attack on freelance journalist Marilú Gambini Lostanau by intruders who were able to enter her home in the northern city of Chimbote on 28 March, restrain her and steal documents although she has had government protection since 2000.

"We are very worried by the idea that a journalist who is supposed to have had a bodyguard for nearly five years can be attacked in this manner in her home," the press freedom organization said.

"Theft of documents is a serious press freedom violation and we therefore urge the authorities to conduct a proper investigation and punish those responsible as quickly as possible," Reporters Without Borders said, adding that it also called for improved protection for Gambini.

The two intruders posed as bricklayers to enter Gambini’s home, where some construction work was being done. One held her by the neck while the other searched the premises for very specific documents, which he found and took with him.

"This journalist was working on drug trafficking matters," Chimbote police chief Col. Roberto Lanatta Corcuera told Reporters Without Borders, adding, "a link with the attack obviously cannot be ruled out."

In a report published in April 2004, Gambini alleged that a Mexican drug cartel consignment was shipped through a naval base at Chimbote. Gambini told the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), a Peruvian press freedom organization, that she does not rule out the possibility that her aggressors were members of the armed forces.

She was assigned a bodyguard by the civil governor’s office in Chimbote in 2000 after repeated threats. She has been in hiding since the 28 March intrusion.

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