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Peru23 December 2003

Murder attempt against US journalist in Lima

Journalist Sharon Stevenson said on the programme "Cuarto Poder", broadcast by America TV on 21 December, that the attack against her on 10 December was not linked to the FARC. She said the person she had an appointment with on the day of the assault was a colonel in the national police who had promised to hand over a piece of equipment used in the fumigation of coca plantations, the subject of her investigation. Stevenson repeated that she did not believe that theft had been the motive for the attack and that she had no memory of what had happened after she met the colonel.

Press release of 18.12.2003

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned by a violent assault against US journalist Sharon Stevenson, which it said appeared to have been connected with her work.

Stevenson, correspondent in Peru for CNN, Newsweek magazine and Voice of America radio was found lying unconscious near her car in a working class neighbourhood of the Peruvian capital on 10 December. She showed signs of having been strangled and had multiple bruises on her body along with signs of a particularly hard blow to the head, which probably caused her partial amnesia.

In a letter to interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi, the international press freedom organisation asked to be kept informed of the progress of the police investigation. "We are all the more concerned since a variety of clues suggest that the journalist was attacked because of her work," said Reporters Without Borders.

She had left her home in the afternoon to meet a Colombian informer Romel Pinedo, who supposedly had evidence of the use of a biological agent in the government campaign to eradicate coca plants. The police investigation found that they met at around 18.30 and that Pinedo got into the journalist’s car.

Stevenson had been investigating the use of the mushroom, Fusarium Oxysporum, in Peruvian anti-drug trafficking campaigns for about ten years. Despite numerous official complaints made by farmers affected by coca plants destruction, the Peruvian government and the US Administration, which backs the campaign, have always denied using it.

Two days before the attack, on 8 December, the journalist had taken part in a local radio broadcast in which she confirmed the infiltration of guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) into Peruvian territory. She had for several years spoken out against the lack of vigilance on the part of the Peruvian authorities responsible for patrolling the Colombian border with Peru. The informer who the journalist was going to meet the day of the attack was subsequently identified as a former member of FARC.

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