The country still scored badly for press freedom, continent-wide, in 2007, with one murder, nearly 200 physical attacks and a dozen incidents of raids on media outlets or censorship. Threats attributed to the Shining Path guerrilla movement, today largely disbanded, added to the climate of hostility towards the media fed by local politicians and police.
Attacks on the media increased again in 2007, with 180 physical attacks, threats and attempted killings of journalists, and 13 raids on media outlets or incidents of censorship. Rosario Orihuela Laus, programme director at TV station Canal 4, received more than a dozen e-mailed announcements of her own death between August and December.
The authorities seemed to encouraging the trend, despite a government announcement in June that crimes against journalists would be formally recognised in law. The media appears to be the scapegoat for a society still recovering from the “people’s war” of the Shining Path guerrillas (1980-2000) and the abuses of the rule of President Alberto Fujimori, now being tried for the unjustified imprisonment of a journalist in 1992. The authors of crimes against journalists - whether coca farmers, local officials, police, solders or ordinary citizens - are rarely punished. Despite clear evidence they ordered the April 2004 murder of journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández, of the radio station Frecuencia Oriental, the ex-mayor of Pucallpa, Luis Valdez Villacorta, and councillor Solio Ramírez Garay were both cleared by the Ucayali high court on 14 November 2007.
Killed in front of his family
Miguel Pérez Julca, journalist and presenter at Radio Éxitos, in the northwestern town of Jaen, was shot dead in the street in front of his wife and two young children by two motorcycle gunmen on 16 March. Colleagues said he was about to reveal a scandal embarrassing for the regional government and had the names of three police officers suspected of taking bribes from drug-traffickers. Three suspects in the killing were quickly arrested, including a supposed organiser, Juan Hurtado Vásquez, whose girlfriend, the head of a children’s rights centre, had been regularly criticised by Pérez Julca. The arrest on 28 November of a suspected hitman, Nazario Coronel Martínez (“chamaya”), led to the corrupt police. However, legal errors have been made in the case and no motive has been established.
Journalists escape gunmen
Danilo Bautista Hernández, presenter of the station Radio California in the northwestern town of Nueva Cajamarca, escaped death on 23 November at the hands of a gunman after twice being threatened with death. He told police it was probably the work of a local organisation he had criticised, the Front for the Defence of Nueva Cajamarca Interests (FEDINC), but his complaint was registered as “attempted robbery.” Two months earlier, Julio César Mendoza Escobar, another radio presenter (of a programme ominously called El Matador” - The Killer) with Radio Candela, in the northeastern town of Yurimaguas Est), who had exposed embezzlement, managed to escape from two gunmen who came to his home. Elías Navarro, editor of the weekly Línea Roja and correspondent for the national daily La República in the southern city of Ayacucho, who survived a bomb attack in November 2006, was the target of threats and harassment throughout 2007. Five journalists in the northwestern town of Chiclayo were fired at on 28 June while covering a land occupation.
Spectre of terror
Heavy reprisals against the media were taken in November in the drug and crime-plagued central region of Huánaco, often by coca growers angry at being suspected, rightly or wrongly, of working with drug-traffickers. The Shining Path guerrillas also seemed to reappear in the region in claiming responsibility for the distribution, in Aucayacu on 15 December, of a blacklist of people to be killed, including four journalists - Ranforte Lozano and Segundo Ramírez, of Radio Aucayacu, and Novel Panduro and Cirilo Velásquez, of Radio Luz. But nothing suggested that the largely-disbanded Maoist guerrillas were really behind the threats. “Shining Path” may be a cover for organised crime.