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Peru19 September 2008

Death threats made against journalist specialising in highly sensitive investigations

Reporters Without Borders today called on the authorities to react rapidly to assist journalist Americo Zambrano, of the weekly magazine Caretas, who has been repeatedly targeted by death threats since 9 September 2008.

The “warnings” appear to be linked to recent revelations made by the 30-year-old journalist about alleged links between the powerful Sanchez Paredes family and Mexican drug cartels. Zambrano, an investigative specialist, had also during the same period exposed a case of corruption within the army high command.

“Americo Zambrano’s plight does appear to be taken seriously at the highest police level and we are pleased to see it,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Nevertheless, we urge the authorities not to neglect any avenue of inquiry that could explain the threats, in particular the case he revealed relating to senior army officers. We also express our solidarity with Americo Zambrano and his magazine and hope that this investigation will rapidly bring results”, it added.

Zambrano, who lives and works in Lima told Reporters Without Borders that he received the most recent threatening phone call on 15 September, when a male voice, the same as on the previous calls the journalist thought, told him, “Die, damn you”. The previous evening the same caller had asked if he “liked to go for walks”, suggesting that he was being followed. Overnight on 11 September, the journalist found his dog dead from poisoning at the entrance to his home.

Zambrano received an international award from the Press and Society Institute of Peru (IPYS) a continental Lima-based press freedom organisation, for his investigation into alleged links between the Sanchez Parades family and the Mexican drug cartels. The journalist strongly suspects that the threats come from this clan, whose representatives have also laid a complaint against him for “fraud”. Although he believed his report into a corruption case naming the General Commander of the Peruvian military, Edwin Donayre, could also be behind the campaign of intimidation.

National police chief, General Octavio Salazar, has personally promised Zambrano that an investigation would be opened. Police appear to place more weight on the drug-trafficking lead. Journalist and editor of Caretas, Marco Zileri, is due to make a formal complaint during the week.

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