Reporters Without Borders learned with pleasure of the release, on 10 May 2005, of Luis Alberto Peña Vergaray, of Radio Nieva Televisión and his guide and interpreter Eduardo Arrobo Samaniego, who were taken captive by members of an indigenous community in the north-east Amazon region on 6 May.
Their release went off smoothly and the hostages are in good health, said the Peruvian interior ministry, which broke the news that they had been freed. The Aguarunas community has denied any involvement in the 21 April murder of four health ministry employees, which the journalists had been investigating. They also deny any links with drug-traffickers which the Peruvian press has accused them of. The Aguarunas are calling for the setting up of a government commission to examine their economic, social and sanitation needs. Interior ministry officials who negotiated the journalists’ release promised to relay their demands to the government in Lima.
10.05.2005-Two journalists taken hostage by members of indigenous community
Reporters Without Borders expressed alarm at the kidnapping of journalist Luis Alberto Peña Vergaray of Radio Nieva Televisión and his guide and interpreter Eduardo Arrobo Samaniego, by members of an indigenous community in the Amazonian province of Condorcanqui in Peru’s north-east.
"We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the two hostages", said Reporters Without Borders. "The economic plight of the Aguarunas community and its resentment of the Peruvian press cannot in any way justify kidnapping and blackmail."
It urged the interior ministry, which is dealing with the case, to carefully manage the hostage-takers susceptibilities and not to endanger the lives of the hostages.
Peña Vergaray and Arrobo Samaniego were seized on 6 May 2005, while they were investigating the murder on 21 April of four health ministry agents in Pampa Entsa. The killing is believed to have been carried out by members of the indigenous community.
The isolated and socially marginalised Aguarunas accuse the government of being indifferent to their plight and the Peruvian press have accused them of collusion with drug-traffickers. In kidnapping the two journalists, the community is seeking to express its discontent with the press and to get the government to set up a commission to respond to its economic and social needs.
Peña Vergaray relayed the kidnappers’ demands to local station Radioprogrammas on 7 May. He said that he and his colleague were in good health and being well-treated. The Aguarunas representative, Antonio Mayán Sejekam, promised to guarantee the journalists’ physical wellbeing even if negotiations with the authorities were not successful, according to the Peruvian press freedom organisation Instituto Prensa y Sociedad. However during his phone conversation with Radioprogrammas, Peña Vergaray said he "feared for his life", the news agency EFE reported.
The interior ministry said on 9 May that the government commission demanded by the Aguarunas would only be set up once the hostages were released.