Category: Press Releases, The Americas, Peru
By: Scott Griffen, IPI Associate

IPI Expresses Alarm over Wave of Attacks against Journalists in Peru

Journalists Covering Mining Protests, Local Corruption Targets of Violence

Andean people protest against Newmont Mining's Conga gold project during a march near the Cortada lagoon at Peru's region of Cajamarca, November 24, 2011. Picture taken Nov. 24, 2011. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

By: Scott Griffen, IPI Associate

VIENNA, June 21, 2012 – With a heavily bandaged head and a noticeable speech impediment, Peruvian reporter Jaime Núñez del Prado described to fellow journalists how four men stormed into his broadcasting studio on Monday and badly beat him – on the orders, he said, of the local mayor.

Núñez del Prado told television cameras he believes Calca Mayor Condori Cruz had been angered by the journalist’s repeated investigations into alleged abuse of power.  “Condori is definitely behind all this,” he said, while under care at a local hospital.  “During the last four years, we have reported on many acts of corruption,” including the alleged falsification of documents to set a rapist free from prison.

Radio Programas del Perú (RPP) reported that the four attackers had been identified as local resident Jacinto Madera and his sons, who are also said to have stolen reporting material and equipment belonging to the journalist.  Speaking to RPP, Cruz denied any role in organizing the attack, attributing the incident to a personal dispute between Núñez del Prado and Madera.

Núñez del Prado, who suffered serious wounds to the face and ribs, told the media this was the third attempt on his life since his reporting on Condori began.  But, he added, referring to his reports on alleged corruption in the mayor’s office: “We cannot allow this type of abuse.”

The International Press Institute (IPI) today strongly condemned the attack on Núñez del Prado, and expressed alarm over the treatment of Peruvian journalists, who have been recently been subject to a wave of attacks and judicial harassment.  

IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said: “The attack on Núñez del Prado, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident.  Over the past month, a number of Peruvian journalists working in the country’s interior have been the targets of death threats and physical attacks by individuals allegedly linked to local mayors.  We are concerned that these incidents are contributing to a culture of self-censorship in areas where journalistic oversight of public officials is particularly needed.”

On May 21, radio journalist Ramiro Muñoz Terrones, was shot in the leg as he was preparing for his broadcast in Cutervo in the region of Cajamarca, the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS, according to its Spanish acronym) reported.  IPYS has linked the attack to Muñoz Terrones’s critcism of Cutervo mayor Raúl Pinedo Vásquez, who reportedly sent an associate to threaten the journalists several days earlier.

According to news reports, on May 20 Pinedo Vásquez’s deputy had threatened another journalist, John Llatas Delgado of the website  Juan Cubas Quispe allegedly told Llatas Delgado he would be beaten up for publishing “inconvenient” reports about the mayor.  

Earlier, on May 16, journalists Jaime Antonio Vásquez Valcárcel and Jorge Martín Carrillo Rojas of the newspaper Pro & Contra received e-mail death threats from an account believed to be created from someone close to the mayor of Maynas, in the region of Loreto.  Peruvian media accounts say the e-mails ordered the journalists to stop reporting on the mayor, and referenced to Vásquez Valcárcel’s children.  

As IPI reported in February, Latin American journalists working in interior regions are particularly vulnerable to local authorities who view investigative reporting as a threat to their otherwise unchecked power.  With respect to Peru, IPI has recorded 10 incidents in which journalists were threatened or attacked by public officials in 2012.  

However, local officials are not the only ones behind recent attacks on Peruvian journalists.  IPYS reported last week that 14 journalists had been the targets of violence while covering escalating protests against the proposed Conga mine project in the country’s Cajamarca region.

Anti-mining protesters have been behind several particularly troubling incidents: on June 14, colleagues rescued América TV correspondent Luis Mego from a mob of demonstrators, apparently intent on killing him for not reporting favorably on the protest; on June 6, a similar mob invaded Radio Onda Popular in Bambamarca, threatening to burn the station down and execute owner Óscar Lino Peralta for allegedly defaming protest leaders and “distorting reality” during his broadcasts, Peruvian media reported.

According to IPYS, on June 14 a group of journalists who had been covering the confrontation between law enforcement and anti-mining protesters were allegedly beaten and had their equipment stolen by several police officers.  The attack occurred despite the fact that the journalists - including Daniel Jayo of Sol TV, Luis Chilón of RPP, and Edwin Lozano of Frecuencia Latina TV – were wearing press badges and identified themselves to the police. 

Trionfi strongly condemned the alleged attacks on journalists by both police and anti-mining protesters, adding: “The protests against the proposed Conga mine are matter of national and, increasingly, international significance.  Regardless of one’s opinion of the project, the Peruvian people have a right to information about this conflict, and we implore all sides to respect the journalists whose job it is to provide that information.”

IPI is deeply concerned about the threat to press freedom in Peru, where three journalists were killed last year.  Impunity for crimes committed against journalists remains prevalent, evidenced by the killing in April of a district attorney investigating last September’s murder of journalist Pedro Flores Silva.

Last week, IPI condemned the defamation convictions of three Peruvian journalists.  Criminal defamation, along with other leading press-freedom issues in Latin America, will be high on the list of discussion topics at IPI’s 2012 World Congress, beginning Saturday in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  

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