Reporters Without Borders welcomed yesterday’s decision by a Lima criminal court to acquit Mauricio Aguirre Corvalán of “divulging secrets of national interest to the detriment of the state” for broadcasting video footage of former President Alberto Fujimori holding a meeting with some of his ministers.
Aguirre had faced a possible eight-year prison sentence and a fine of 150,000 euros. He aired the footage with Fujimori’s permission in September 2003 on Cuarto Poder, a programme he used to present on Canal 4. Shot in 1998 by Fujimori’s son, the footage was used by Fujimori during his campaign for re-election in 2000.
13.09.06 - Lima prosecutors hound journalists, requesting eight-year sentence in one case
Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm today about the prosecution of two journalists. One, former Canal 4 TV presenter Mauricio Aguirre Corvalán, faces up to eight years in prison for “revealing state secrets” by screening a video he received from former President Alberto Fujimori. The other, freelance reporter Humberto Ortiz Pajuelo, faces a possible four-year sentence for revealing details about a case against a senior intelligence official accused of extortion.
“The abuse of authority and judicial harassment evident in these cases can only be motivated by hostility towards the press,” the organisation said. “In the Aguirre case, the charge is all the more grotesque as former President Fujimori himself authorised the taping of the offending video. Would he have given his permission if he thought state secrets were involved?”
Reporters Without Borders added: “In the other case, prosecutors are trying to use judicial blackmail to make Ortiz reveal his sources. In both cases, the courts are violating the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, which was adopted by the Organisation of American States and ratified by Peru. We therefore call for the cases against these two journalists to be dismissed outright.”
On 15 August, Lima prosecutors accused Aguirre of “revealing secrets of national interest to the detriment of the state” in September 2003, when he was the producer and presenter of the programme ‘Cuarto Poder’ on Canal 4. The prosecutors will request an eight-year prison sentence and a fine of 150,000 euros at the trial, which is due to start today.
In 2003, Aguirre aired a video showing Fujimori (who was president from 1990 to 2000) chairing a ministerial meeting in 1998 on the border dispute between Peru and Ecuador. It was filmed by Fujimori’s son at the president’s request and, far from revealing any secrets, it was even used by Fujimori in his campaign for reelection in 2000. It was Fujimori’s press office that sent the video to ‘Cuarto Poder’ to illustrate an interview he gave the programme.
Pedro Angulo Arana, a Lima prosecutor specialising in bribery and corruption cases, charged Ortiz on 24 August with “committing an offence against the administration of justice” and requested a sentence of four years in prison and damages of 2,500 euros.
In an article he wrote in 2004, Ortiz referred to an audio recording indicating that National Intelligence Council chief César Almeyda had extorted money from a senior army officer, Gen. Oscar Villanueva. Judicial officials asked Ortiz to hand over the recording. Ortiz said it was in the possession of a source he refused to identify. Suddenly Ortiz found himself being accused of concealing evidence in the investigation against Almeyda and of wanting to resell the recording to a third party.
The prosecutor, Angulo, initially decided not to pursue the case against Ortiz. But he was overruled by a higher court, which force him to reopen the case. Now resident in Miami, Ortiz has said he is ready to go to Peru if the judicial authorities issue a summons against him.