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Peru11 February 2008

Radio journalist’s house fired on, two others get death threats

Reporters Without Borders called today on the authorities to protect three journalists, including John Isuiza Inauma, of radio station MBR, whose home in the northeastern town of Yurimaguas was fired on by gunmen on 8 February while his wife and children were there. He also received death threats, along with the other two, freelance reporter Rodolfo Isla Castillo and Julio César Mendoza Escobar, of the station Radio Candela.

“This appears to be another warning attack and threats linked to coverage of local corruption,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Peru is top of the list for physical attacks on the media in Latin America, with some 200 last year, including shootings and one murder. The authorities have been slow to react. It is very urgent they take a clear stand for press freedom and for punishment of those responsible. We hope the interior ministry will give close attention to the plight of these three journalists.”

Isuiza Inauma was absent when the gunmen attacked his house, according to the Peruvian press freedom organisation IPYS (Instituto Prensa y Sociedad) and the regional daily Pro y Contra. A car parked outside was damaged by bullets but nobody was hurt. Leaflets containing death threats against Isuiza Inauma and the other journalists - Rodolfo Isla Castillo and Julio César Mendoza Escobar - were found nearby.

Isla Castillo said the attack may have been linked with criticism by the three journalists of Héctor Hidalgo, chief of Alto Amazonas province, Iván Vásquez Valera, president of Loreto region, and Lidia Navarro Bardales, director the Santa Gema hospital in Yurimaguas, for corruption.

Navarro Bardales told the daily La Región on 6 August last year that she hoped Isla Castillo would be convicted of libel and “insults” for saying she had stolen hospital funds to buy herself a house. Regional health officials opened an investigation. Hidalgo denied involvement in the shooting and suggested the journalists may have staged the attack to give themselves publicity.

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