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Press freedom was strained in this period by a number of incidents, some of them involving friction between politicians and journalists, while in other cases journalists have been assaulted or threatened with legal action as a result of their work. It is troubling that the 2004 murders of journalists Alberto Rivera Fernández and Antonio De la Torre remain unpunished, after the cases had gotten off to such a strong start. The coordinated efforts of various media outlets have proven insufficient thus far. However, the designation of Francisco Távara as chief justice may usher in improved conditions and stronger guarantees for due process in these cases. The trial for the Rivera murder resumed last week after numerous postponements sought by the defense attorneys of Mayor Luis Valdez Villacorta of Coronel Portillo and former Chief Justice Solio Ramírez Garay of Coronel Portillo Superior Court, who are charged with instigating the murder. The most significant outcome of these maneuvers was that the judges who in February 2006 had sentenced five perpetrators and accomplices in the murder were forced to step down from the case after the Supreme Court granted a motion for recusal. Later, after the case was moved to a criminal court in Ucayali, the oral phase of the trial was voided and rescheduled for early January 2007. But in January, with lead judge Dr. Miriam Calmet Cainero on leave due to illness, the trial was postponed until mid-March, “so that it won’t be interrupted by the judicial recess” (from February 1 to March 2). These delays also coincided with the municipal election campaign, in which Mayor Valdez Villacorta ran for re-election. In late December, the Supreme Court upheld the 25-year sentences handed down to Roy Culqui Saurino and Martín Flores Vásquez for having served as intermediaries in the murder. Both are serving their sentences in the Pucallpa correctional facility. The case of the 2004 murder of radio journalist Antonio De la Torre Echeandía was submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after the controversial acquittal by the Supreme Court. The defendants had received 17-year prison sentences in 2005 from a court in Ancash. After Amaro León León—the former provincial governor of Yungay and the alleged mastermind behind the murder—was released from jail, the journalist’s widow filed a police report claiming that she and her children had been subjected to violent verbal assaults by the governor and his entourage. She sought protection and did receive it, though for only a short period of time. In another development, the National Criminal Court granted the appeal filed by family members of journalist Jaime Ayala Sulca. A lower court had dismissed the case against Adrián Huamán Centeno, Augusto Gabilondo García del Barco, and Alberto Rivero Valdeavellano, all of them officers in the Peruvian Navy who were charged with masterminding the 1984 disappearance of Ayala. The journalist was last seen entering the Navy barracks in Huanta, Ayacucho. After an investigation that took more than three years, the Prosecutor’s Office for Human Rights filed criminal charges against the defendants in September 2006. However, Navy Capt. Álvaro Artaza Adrianzén, aka “Comandante Camión,” was not charged because he has been ruled presumably dead, despite evidence submitted by Ayala’s family that he has been on the run and hiding in the United States since 1989. The 1989 murder of a Tampa Tribune reporter—who was investigating links between the military and drug traffickers in the coca-growing area of Uchiza, in the department of San Martín—remains unpunished. But there may be new hope in the case. According to the Miami Herald, Sen. Bill Nelson requested that the case be reopened during his official visit with Peruvian President Alan García Pérez in February. Nelson based his request on the fact that new information has emerged in the case. It has been revealed that police took secret testimony in 1982 from a witness to Smith’s abduction who identified former airline owner Fernando Zevallos as having planned the murder. Zevallos, who waged a lengthy legal battle against the newspaper El Comercio, has not been tried for the murder of the U.S. reporter, though he is also thought to be responsible for attacks on a number of journalists investigating his activities. In 2005 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for money laundering and drug trafficking. On December 14, Judge Mercedes Gómez Marchisio of a criminal court in Lima lifted an order she had issued in November banning the newspaper Expreso from publishing anything that may be offensive to or defamatory of Diego García Sayán, the former justice minister in the transitional government of President Valentín Paniagua. The ban, which had caused considerable controversy, came about as part of a libel suit filed by García Sayán against Expreso editor Luis García Miró. Judge Gómez Marchisio ruled that García Sayán—who has publicly complained that he is the victim of a coordinated smear campaign by the newspapers Expreso and La Razón—had violated the order not to discuss the case by granting an interview about it that was later published. On January 25, based on the results of expert investigative work, the Ad Hoc Prosecutor’s Office moved to have the Supreme Court’s ruling partially overturned and to have América Televisión released from liability. The company had been ordered by an anticorruption court in Lima to pay 80 million U.S. dollars in damages as a “civilly liable third party” in the criminal case against José Enrique and José Francisco Crousillat, the channel’s former owners. Father and son were charged with conspiracy and embezzlement for receiving 69 million soles from presidential adviser Vladimiro Montesinos in exchange for compromising the channel’s editorial line to favor President Alberto Fujimori. In December, the Supreme Court upheld the eight-year prison sentences for both defendants. In January, Judge Sonia Salvador Ludeña of a criminal court in Lima summoned journalist, writer and humorist Nicolás Yerovi to court—under penalty of arrest—for the verdict in a plagiarism trial that began in 1999. That same year, Yerovi and the publishing house Peisa filed a complaint with the National Institute to Defend Competition and Protect Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) against Alberto Álvarez Calderón for plagiarizing the novel Más allá del aroma. Álvarez Calderón confessed to the crime and agreed not to publish or sell the novel. But one week later, INDECOPI banned Yerovi from publishing the novel and filed criminal plagiarism charges against him. In December, representatives from more than 20 nongovernmental organizations protested Law 28925 over its implications for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of employment. The measure, which was passed by Congress in a third round of voting, amends the law establishing the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (APCI). The NGO representatives warned that the law is dangerous because it could lead to government intervention into NGO activities funded by international cooperation agencies, and that it could be used as a tool to disrupt and defeat initiatives that are not to the government’s liking. On December 29, the government newspaper El Peruano published the agreement reached by a plenary session of the Supreme Court on the constitutional right to freedom of speech and freedom of information and on defamation-related offenses, known as “crimes against honor.” This agreement is now a binding precedent for future cases. It establishes that freedom of speech and the right to one’s “honor” have equal priority in the Constitutional, with neither taking precedence over the other. It also says that because freedom of information and freedom of speech are public in nature, information disseminated about public figures should be limited to their public actions and should not violate their right to privacy. And it adds that freedom of speech “requires a concurrence of accuracy and the truth and the information offered. It should be exercised in a subjectively accurate manner,” while not ruling out constitutional protection in the case of “reporting errors” on secondary information in a news story. In October 2006, Congresswoman Fabiola Morales introduced a bill to create the “Reporters’ Conscience Clause,” which would grant journalists the right to “voluntarily leave the media outlet at which they work if there is a change in journalistic orientation … that creates a conflict of conscience.” During the regional and municipal election campaigns in the last quarter of 2006, the press came under attack on a number of occasions. For example, Radio Cutivalú correspondent Alexis Carrasco Ipanaqué in Huamarca district, Piura province, and Radio Ancash correspondent José Ramírez Villacorta in Huari district, Ancash province, were arbitrarily detained for 3 and 21 days, respectively, in separate incidents. Both were arrested and charged with participating in violent protests over local election results, but they were later released due to a lack of evidence. In March, the Peruvian Press Council expressed its displeasure with President Alan García for the way he described the work of the press during a press conference at the governmental palace. The council particularly criticized García’s harsh words about the newspaper La República. Also causing concern was the violence and hostility displayed on March 9 toward reporters Marco Antonio Vázquez and Marco Sifuentes of the program “La Ventana Indiscreta” (The Indiscreet Window), which airs on Frecuencia Latina. The reporters were near the offices of the Aprista Party in the Pueblo Libro district to cover a mass gathering in support of Carlos Arana, who had been appointed director of the Ministry of Housing’s “Water for Everyone” program. After the reporters recorded Arana’s speech, which accused President García of improprieties, the party’s security guards kicked Vázquez and detained Sifuentes for half an hour while demanding that they turn over their work. Journalists from Radio Bacán have been banned from the Congressional building since September 2006, when the list of media outlets accredited to cover Congress was updated. Journalist Marilú Gambini Lostaunau left the country in March 2006 after repeatedly receiving death threats against her and her children as a result of her investigations and news reports on the involvement of authorities in drug trafficking in the port city of Chimbote in Ancash department. The threats escalated after she returned to Peru late last year. On January 1, unknown assailants entered her home in Chimbote, apparently looking for documents related to a drug case. Gambini attributes these recent attacks to the Supreme Court’s resumption in November of the drug trial against the owners of the Hayudk fishing company, whose activities have been repeatedly exposed in the press. Jaime Rázuri, a Peruvian photographer working for Agence France Presse, was released seven days after being abducted on January 1 in Gaza City, Palestine. In December, three months into the new administration, concern emerged about an apparent delay in implementing the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information. The Peruvian Press Council said that the 27 of the 41 Web sites of agencies of the central government that it reviewed had not been updated as the law requires. One of these sites was that of the Office of the President, which had been under “maintenance” for several months. Other developments during this period: On October 26, some 50 members of the political group Fuerza Loretana physically assaulted Raúl López Celis, the director and host of the program Hora Zero in the city of Iquitos, in retaliation for his criticism of Iván Vásquez Valera, the regional gubernatorial candidate for the group. On November 10, a criminal court in Cusco sentenced editor Julio Jara Ladrón de Guevara and reporter Carolina Zamalloa, both of them with the newspaper El Comercio de Cusco, to one year’s probation and ordered them to pay approximately 620 U.S. dollars in damages for libel against Carlos Aguilar Carrasco, an instructor at the School of Fine Arts in Cusco. The journalists appealed the ruling, which is now being reviewed by the Cusco Superior Court. In September 2005, the newspaper had published statements by female students accusing the instructor of sexual harassment, but later published a correction letter by the instructor. On November 10, Darwin Paniagua Yumbato, a correspondent for Frecuencia Latina, Canal 2, in Maynas province, Loreto department, was assaulted by José Mamán, the general manager of the provincial government, while covering a public gathering. The journalist had criticized Mamán’s improper involvement in the re-election campaign of Mayor Juan del Águila Cárdenas. On November 14, Judge Mercedes Gómez Marchisio of a criminal court in Lima ordered Expreso editor Luis García Miró not to publish any story related to former Justice Minister Diego García Sayán, as part of a libel suit against the editor. But in the wake of controversy caused by the ruling, which is an attack on freedom of speech, the judge limited the ban to reports that might be offensive or defamatory of the former minister. On December 14, Judge Gómez Marchisio issued a ruling that lifted that ban on Expreso from reporting on García Sayán, because the former minister violated rules requiring him not to discuss certain aspects of the trial when he granted an interview about the case to the newspaper El Comercio on November 27. On November 21, Alexis Carrasco Ipanaqué, a correspondent for Radio Cutivalú in Huamarca district, Piura department, was arrested by the National Police during a violent protest over the results of the November 19 municipal elections. After being charged with participating in the disturbances, the journalist was released on November 23 after no evidence of his involvement was found. On November 24, photographers Eitan Abramovich of Agence France Presse and Walter Hupiú were assaulted by members of the National Police while photographing acts of police repression during a peaceful march held in Lima’s main square to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women On December 5, Wilman Caychigua Robles, a reporter for Radio Inca Tropical and the newspaper El Chasqui in the city of Abancay, was shot and severely injured, allegedly by police, during a protest march against the governor-elect of Apurímac department. Radio Laser reporter Rubén Melgarejo Aguilar was also injured when he was struck in the head by a rock, and his cell phone was seized by police. Wilman Caychigua remains hospitalized in the department of Cusco. On December 15, Ostiano Antón, station director of Radio Vecinal in Piura department, said that the station’s installations was damaged in an attack with explosives. Antón did not rule out the possibility that the attack was related to the radio campaign denouncing corruption among municipal and regional authorities. On January 16, Ramiro Bardales Sánchez, a cameraman with the Audiovisual Unit of the Institutional Image Office of the Loreto regional government, was beaten by a group of demonstrators during a protest called by the Peruvian General Workers Confederation (CGTP) outside the regional government headquarters. On January 20, Elizabeth Salinas, host of the radio program Satélite Noticias on Radio Satélite, and Cinthia Flores, a reporter for Cono Este magazine, both of them from the department of Lima, received death threats and were physically assaulted by two officials of the municipality of Chosica. On February 18, Nicolás Palza Velarde, host of the program Sin Pelos en la Lengua (Without Mincing Words), which airs on Radio Caplina in the department of Tacna, reported that he was assaulted while out in public with his family. The journalist said he was able to identify one of his assailants as Toribio Urure Robles, a former gubernatorial candidate in Tacna province.

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