Reporters Without Borders today condemned a wave of threats and attacks on journalists, in many cases by elected representatives or local officials, and urged the interior minister to put a stop to the violence against the press by punishing those responsible.
“With some 15 cases of physical attacks and death threats against journalists, since the start of the year, Peru is again at the head of the Latin American ranking for this kind of violence against the press,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“This violence is all the more shocking when, as in most cases, those responsible are elected officials, civil servants or even policemen, who are supposed to ensure respect for the law,” the press freedom organisation added. “We therefore call for disciplinary measures from interior minister Pilar Mazzetti Soler as well as the sanctions applicable under the law.”
In the most recent case, Aldo Meza Torres of Radio Calor was warned on the air on 19 February that he would suffer reprisals if he continued to criticise administrative irregularities and abuse of authority within the police force in the western town of Casma. Meza, who requested protection from the authorities, was already threatened and attacked by Casma police chief Marino Giménez Carrera last July.
Nicolás Palza Velarde of Radio Caplina was attacked and beaten by several assailants on a street in the southern city of Tacna on 18 February. According to the National Association of Journalists (ANP), he recognised one of them as Toribio Urure Robles, a former candidate in the municipal elections.
Efraín Chunga Lovón, a programme host on local Radio Salcantay, was physically attacked by Víctor del Castillo Alarcón, the former mayor of the Santiago district of the southeastern city of Cusco, during an interview on 15 February in which Chunga criticised his management.
Edwin Ocrospoma Reynaga of AMR Televisión received a death threat in a phone call on 12 February in the western city of Huaraz. The press freedom organisation Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) said Ocrospoma thought it had been prompted by his claims that the municipal police and the Front for the Defence of Huaraz Interests, a local civil society group, were involved in corruption.
Hugo Gonzáles Henestroza of the daily Ya received a death threat from Abelardo Cabello Tinoco, the head of a union of workers employed by the government of the western region of Ancash, on 6 February after Gonzáles wrote about influence-trafficking in which the union leader is allegedly involved.
Antonio Asalde Lluen, the publisher of the regional daily El Guerrero in Casma, received death threats on the street on 26 January from Yutaca Cadota, an advisor to the mayor. The threats, which also targeted Asalde’s family, seem to have been prompted by columns he recently wrote criticising Cadota’s lack of qualifications for her position.
Elizabeth Salinas, the host of the radio programme “Satélite Noticias”, and Cinthia Florez, a photographer with the magazine Cono Este, were attacked and threatened on 20 January in Chosica (east of Lima) by municipal officials José Luis Zafra and Mazzi Soto, who told them to stop investigating an alleged case of corruption involving the mayor. The two journalists have been the target of harassment since October.
Finally, intruders broke into the home of freelance journalist Marilú Gambini Lostanau in the western city of Chimbote on 1 January and returned the following day. In all, there have been four break-ins at her home in the past two years. Gambini has been living in exile since last April after investigating drug trafficking (see release of 12 April 2006). Her caretaker, Jorge Vega, wanted to report the break-in on 1 January, but the police refused to register his complaint on the grounds that he was not the owner. Two men threatened to kill Vega the next day.