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Peru9 September 2008

Impunity blamed for a new wave of threats and attacks on provincial journalists

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about a new outbreak of physical attacks and threats on the news media since the end of August, which is indicative of the police and judicial laxness towards those responsible for violence against journalists.

“Journalists are once again being used as whipping boys by irate officials, disgruntled political and union activists, coca growers upset by threats to their interests, and police who abuse their authority,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The fact that those responsible for these attacks are often officials or politicians tends to discourage prosecutions, which makes it more likely that they recur.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “A supreme court decision on 11 June to uphold 17 and 15-year prison sentences for two military personnel convicted of the 1988 murder of Caretas magazine correspondent Hugo Bustíos poses a serious challenge to the prevailing impunity. A similar stand is needed with these attacks on journalists, all of which also constitute press freedom violations.”

According to the Press and Society Institute (IPYS), a Peruvian press freedom organisation, and the National Association of Journalists (ANP), at least nine journalists have been the target of threats or violence since the end of August.

Reporter Felipe Tipián Ramírez and cameraman Charles Cubas Ojanama of TV Tarapoto, a privately-owned regional television station based in Tarapoto, in the northern region of San Martín, were assaulted on 30 August by lawyer Líster Celis Vela as his client, San Martín University rector Alfredo Quinteros García, was being brought into a police station to be arrested for alleged irregularities in his reelection.

Dante Francisco Espeza of La Pegajosa, a regional radio station based near the southern city of Ayacucho, received a threatening phone call on 2 September after criticising illegal coca farming and drug trafficking on the air earlier in the day. The caller threatened to kill him and said he was familiar with all of his family’s movements. Espeza was threatened in a similar fashion on 9 July.

Journalist Percy Uriarte was hit several times when around 50 truck drivers stormed into the offices of the daily Ahora in the northern city of Bagua Grande on 2 September and threatened to set fire to the premises because it reported that local road haulers were being used to transport drugs.

Cameraman Walter Macuyama of Canal 19, Henry Sánchez of Canal 43 and Gustavo Vásquez and Patricia Macedo of Panamericana Televisión were attacked and beaten on 3 September in the northeastern city of Iquitos by health workers striking for better conditions who clashed with fellow workers opposed to the strike.

Radio Frecuencia 1000 manager and presenter Filomeno Quispe Flores was attacked and injured by Justo Mayta Livici, the mayor of Paucarpata (a district near the southern city of Arequipa), while covering a municipal council meeting on 4 September. The mayor had already taken Quispe to task after an interview last June.

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