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Peru15 May 2007

Journalist was gunned down to prevent him naming corrupt policemen, colleagues and press reports say

Peruvian newspapers and colleagues of Radio Éxitos journalist Miguel Pérez Julca have said he was gunned down by two hired killers on 17 March in Jaén because he announced during his programme, “El Informativo del Pueblo,” the day before that in three days’ time he would reveal the names of Jaén police officers who had links to drug traffickers and who protected criminal gangs.

Lacking resources, Pérez did not record his programmes, but his sound engineer, Fernando Jiménez, recalled that he announced that he would “report on a case involving the regional government.” Fellow journalist and friend Pepe Morales said Pérez “had the names of three corrupt police officers attached to the Jaén interior ministry office who extorted money from drug traffickers and other gang members.”

Two people have so far been arrested as murder suspects. One is Alí Zamudio, an alleged shooter. The other is Juan Hurtado Vásquez, the alleged instigator. But the El Comercio daily claims that the investigation is “biased and inadequate” because witnesses have given statements in an improper manner and without a lawyer being present.

The authorities have also arrested Elbia Mendoza, the owner of the motorcycle allegedly used in the shooting, and Dílbert Cabada Arteaga, a youth who is supposed to have followed Pérez prior to his murder and seen the equivalent of about 1,000 euros being paid to one of the alleged contract killers. But El Comercio and La República, another daily, claim that they were all arrested just to deflect attention from those really responsible, namely police officers.

Pérez’s widow, who was wounded when her husband was gunned down, has left Jaén with help from the Peruvian press freedom organisation, the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS).


30.04.07 - 18-year-old youth arrested as suspected hit-man in murder of Miguel Pérez Julca

A youth suspected of being one of the contract killers in the 17 March murder of journalist Miguel Pérez Julca was arrested on 25 April. Police detained Dilber Cabada Arteaga, 18, as he was travelling on a motorcycle taxi in Mesones Muro, in the northwestern province of Ferreñafe, not far from where Pérez’ relatives live. When the police moved in to make the arrest, Cabada tried to escape and then attacked the police officers, who used their weapons to subdue him.

Cabada has reportedly confessed to being present when the killing was planned by the alleged instigator, Juan Hurtado Vásquez, and when Hurtado paid the equivalent of 1,150 euros to a contract killer who has not yet been identified. Cabada also reportedly confessed that, a month before the killing, a woman called Elbia Mendoza gave him a motorcycle with no licence plate so that he and two other individuals could follow Pérez.


10.04.07 - Suspected organiser of journalist’s murder arrested

Police on 4 April arrested a suspect, Juan Hurtado Vásquez, in the murder of journalist Miguel Pérez Julca, of Radio Éxitos, who was shot dead in the northwestern town of Jaén on 16 March. Hurtado, the companion of the president of a child welfare centre, wanted to punish the journalists for criticising the centre, police said. He reportedly hired two killers known to police, Walter García Valdivia (“Zurdo”) and Alí Zamudio Saavedra (“Balán”), who were arrested late last month.

The Peruvian press freedom group Instituto prensa y sociedad (IPYS) said on 7 April that Pérez Julca’s murder had not been solved because of the multitude of anonymous sources of information about it. Reporters Without is also waiting for a thorough investigation of the killing to be completed.


22.03.07 - Two journalists warned they will be "next" after radio reporter’s murder

Five days after Radio Exitos reporter Miguel Pérez Julca’s murder, two journalists in the northwestern city of Jaén yesterday said they had received SMS messages on their mobile phones warning that they would be “the next to be killed” if they continued to cover corruption and crime in Jaén.

They are Juan Vásquez, the correspondent of the América Noticias news agency and the Canal 9 TV station and Walter Altamirano of station Radio Amajú. Both of them have asked for police protection.

The city council has declared a three-month state of emergency in order to combat a crime wave. Mayor Jaime Vilchez denied any involvement in the murder of Pérez, who had attacked his record on fighting crime.

“The death threats against Pérez’s two colleagues unfortunately tend to confirm that he was killed for doing his job,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call on the authorities to ensure that Vásquez and Altamirano are protected and to bring the truth about Pérez’s murder to light. The plight of the media in Jaén bodes ill for all journalists in Peru. The interior ministry should take over the case.”


19.03.2007 - Radio reporter gunned down in an apparent contract killing linked to his work

Reporters Without Borders expressed its deepest sympathy today with the family and colleagues of Miguel Pérez Julca, a radio journalist who was gunned down on 16 March in Jaén, in the northwestern province of Cajamarca. Given the stories Pérez was covering and the manner of his death, the organisation hopes the police will thoroughly investigate the possibility that it was connected with his work.

“He was looking into local corruption, he said he was being followed just before his death, and his murderers behaved like contract killers,” the press freedom organisation said. “So for all these reasons the investigators should work on the assumption he was killed because of his reporting, even if that upsets the local government.”.

Reporters Without Borders added: “Gunned down in front of his family, Pérez was the first journalist to be murdered in Peru since 2004. His murder must not be left unpunished, or else it will encourage others to do the same.”

Aged 38, Pérez was returning to his home in the Jaén district of Las Palmeras with his wife and two children on the evening of 16 March when two gunmen on a motorcycle shot him twice in the head and then sped away. He died while being rushed to hospital. His wife, Nelly Guevara Arrascue, was hit in the left knee.

Pérez worked for “El informativo del pueblo,” a news programme on local Radio Exitos. He was also a contributor to Radio Oriental and Radio Jaén. He had recently blamed Jaén mayor Jaime Vilchez Oblitas for several cases of mismanagement. He has also covered local corruption and violent crime in Jaén. The day before his murder, he told friends he had seen a white car following him on the street.

The daily La República reported that several witnesses had identified the killers as being local criminals but no arrests had been made.

The last two journalists to be killed in Peru were Antonio de la Torre Echeandía of Radio Orbita, who was murdered in Yungay (400 km north of Lima) on 14 February 2004, and Alberto Rivera Fernández of radio Frecuencia Oriental, who was gunned down in the east-central city of Pucallpa on 21 April 2004. The local mayors and their close associates were allegedly implicated in both cases but were let off by the courts last year.



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