Recent months have been marked by greater press freedom and diversity of opinions in Peru. While complaints of a lack of media support for the administration of President Alejandro Toledo have been heard from some parts of the government, the anti-government press has also complained of incidents they believe have hindered freedom of expression. Also significantly, great strides have been made in free speech legislation, especially in the area of constitutional reform and the recently enacted Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information. In August the IAPA joined forces with the Peruvian Press Council on its campaign to close gaps in the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information and the risks to the public’s right to be informed posed by the article providing for exceptions to the law. The exceptions authorize the executive branch – an eminently political and transient institution – to classify information as a state secret. Amending the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information is on the current legislative agenda, so a final version is hoped for by the end of the year. Other important points are the requirement for each government agency to identify a public official responsible for receiving requests for information from citizens; the incorporation of administrative, and even criminal, penalties for obstructing access to public information; a ban on the destruction of information and mechanisms for instituting a policy of economic and fiscal transparency within the government. In the area of constitutional reform, the National Congress has approved a number of articles that would protect freedom of expression and press freedom in Peru. For example, the principle of “additional responsibilities as may be established by law” has been incorporated as it is in Article 13 of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights. The right to seek information has been included under the heading of the right to impart information and express opinions and thoughts. And the right to exercise the freedoms inherent in the practice of journalism and the recognized right to establish media outlets have been added. Congress has incorporated a number of recommendations from the Peruvian Press Council in its ongoing debate of the constitutional amendments, including those described above and the right to make corrections, but not the right of reply. Congressmen of various political stripes have also introduced a number of bills, such as the preliminary draft of a Journalists Labor Act, a bill to repeal Article 374 of the Criminal Code on the crime of insulting public officials, and a bill to restructure Editora Peru, the company that publishes Peru’s official gazette, El Peruano. The controversial and extensively debated Radio and Television Act introduced by the Transportation, Housing and Construction Commission has been stricken from the congressional agenda, so prompt consideration is not expected. In September the Constitutional Court set free speech precedent when it ruled inadmissible the amparo proceeding for constitutional relief brought by Caja Rural de Ahorro y Crédito de San Martín against Comunicación y Servicios S.R. Ltda., which owns Radio Imagen, and journalists Ramón Alfonso Amaringo and Hildebrando García Moncada for reporting on ties between members of the savings and loan’s board of directors and former Fujimori presidential advisor Vladimiro Montesinos. Under the Constitution, the court ruled, when other constitutional rights such as the rights of honor and reputation are infringed in the exercise of press freedom, they cannot be protected in a way that preemptively stops a mass media outlet from imparting information. Despite this progress, there have been complaints relating to the free exercise of press freedom in Peru. Anti-corruption judge Juana Meza opened an investigation into Luis Agois Banchero and Enrique Agois Paulsen for allegedly taking money from Montesinos, through then Peruvian Ambassador Gabriel García Pike, to publish stories favorable to the Fujimori administration in the newspaper Ojo. The complaint was based on a report, citing witness testimony, prepared by a congressional commission investigating Montesinos, chaired by Congressman Anel Towsend. The owners of Ojo and the former ambassador emphatically deny the accusation and complain of irregularities in the investigation. Although some time has passed, the anti-corruption court has yet to determine the outcome of the investigation. Congressman Jorge Mufarech of the Perú Posible party filed a criminal complaint against the newspaper El Comercio for alleged defamation and falsely accusing him of a crime in a report on imports, suggesting that the congressman had likely declared too low a value for a Jaguar automobile he had imported from Chile. In his complaint, Congressman Mufarech demands 50 million dollars in compensation. This astronomical figure is seen as a scare tactic. The trial is still going on, and El Comercio is arguing that the truth of the report is a defense to defamation (known as the exceptio veritatis defense). On October 21 prosecutor José Vargas Valdivia asked the Intermediate Anti-Corruption Court of Appeals to arrest the president of Empresa Editora de Publicaciones Gente, Enrique Escardó. This request conflicts with Escardó’s acquittal of the crimes of conspiracy and embezzlement by Judge Sara Mayta, although she did open an investigation and order him not to leave the country on allegations of complicity in embezzlement. Escardó claims he is the victim of economic and political harassment as a consequence of the editorial stance taken by the magazine Gente during the Fujimori administration, although he acknowledges that the magazine’s publisher at the time, Victor Rivero, did take money now known to have come from the National Intelligence Service to discredit the owners and editors of media outlets critical of the administration, and to conduct a campaign against the principal shareholder of television Channel 2, Baruch Ivcher Bronstein, in support of the government’s decision to strip him of his Peruvian citizenship. In the case of Expreso editor Eduardo Calmell del Solar, jailed pending a corruption trial, a judge granted his habeas corpus request for release. Calmell del Solar then fled the country. An international search and arrest warrant has now been issued. His relatives say the habeas corpus writ is still in effect. The Congressional Oversight Commission has recommended that the Attorney General’s Office investigate allegations of influence peddling by Salomón Lerner Ghitis, former president of Cooperación Financiera de Desarrollo (COFIDE). The source is a tape recording in which Lerner Ghitis allegedly put pressure on Moisés and Alex Wolfenson, brothers and owners of the newspapers La Razón and El Chino, to stop attacking the Toledo administration. Hours after the tape was released, Lerner Ghitis resigned as president of COFIDE, stating in a press release that what he said on the tape had been in a personal capacity. Moisés Wolfenson is currently under house arrest for his alleged involvement in acts of corruption. Early this year Judge Guido Vera of Lima Court 11 ordered journalist Alvaro Vargas Llosa to appear or be brought in by force, if necessary, after he failed to appear to answer defamation charges filed by Adam Pollack, a businessman and close friend of President Alejandro Toledo. Vargas Llosa had reported on alleged irregularities in Peruvian government negotiations for a military procurement contract. An arrest warrant was issued on July 25 for Vargas Llosa, who has declared himself in contempt of court and is currently in hiding. In his defense, Vargas Llosa claims to be a victim of political persecution and gross irregularities in the judicial proceeding against him. In June Montesinos’s former press secretary, Augusto Bresani, was arrested in Miami. Bresani is accused of receiving $100,000 a month from the National Intelligence Service during Fujimori’s re-election campaign to spread around among half a dozen newspapers in exchange for their publication of stories deliberately libeling or insulting political opponents, journalists and independent media outlets. Bresani is also believed to have carried out the Fujimori government’s disinformation campaign in the “prensa chicha,” or popular tabloid press. Since his arrest in the United States, Bresani has attempted to avoid an extradition request from the Peruvian courts, claiming to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that he is a victim of political persecution. In October anti-corruption judge Magaly Báscones denied his attorney’s petition to change the arrest warrant to a summons. Other significant issues of press freedom in recent months are presented below in chronological order. Journalist Luis Alberto Cuellar Alanoca, a Radio Programas del Perú correspondent and commentator for the “Atico en la Noticia” news program on radio station APQ, was verbally attacked on March 26 by Atico mayor Milton Medina Urday in Caravelí de Arequipa Province in retaliation for criticism of his conduct as a town councilman. On March 26 editor Mabel Cáceres Calderón of the biweekly newspaper El Búho de Arequipa received a box containing animal viscera and the following threat: “Your time has come, bitch.” Cáceres reported she had received death threats previously and attributed them to reports in El Búho de Arequipa on allegations of cronyism at the Universidad de San Agustín in Arequipa. The director of the Huanta Educational Services Unit in Ayacucho, Homero Trejo González, verbally attacked journalists Eduardo Pineda of the “Testigo de la Noticia” program and Carlos Buendía of the “Radioperiódico 2000” program on radio station Huanta 2000 on April 4 in retaliation for broadcasting reports critical of his conduct in office. Journalist Hugo González Hinostroza of the newspaper Liberación was threatened over the telephone on April 11 by an unidentified individual while covering news in the city of Huaraz on environmental pollution in Atupa. Three journalists from the newspaper El Tiempo in the city of Piura – María Irina Mauricio Trelles, Genaro Guerrero Zurita and editor Luz María Helguero – were sued for defamation on April 31, seeking half a million dollars in damages, after they published a report on sexual harassment involving Manuel Eduardo Cevallos Flores, former president of the Government Commission of Universidad Nacional de Piura Law School. Members of the Loreto Patriotic Front attacked reporter Darwin Paniagua of Radio La Voz de la Selva in Iquitos on May 14 as he was covering the national strike called by several different national unions. Paniagua was taken to the emergency room at Iquitos Hospital. Panamericana Televisión reporters Yorka Poémape and Edwin Tarazona were attacked by a group of residents of Villa Militar de Chorrillos. The entered the military housing complex without authorization on May 21, looking for recently released Army General Augusto Jaime Patiño, who had been arrested for his involvement in the Chavín de Huantar operation to free the hostages taken by MRTA forces at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in 1997. In mid-June five journalists from Radio Líder and three from Radio Melodía of Arequipa were denounced by Luis Gutiérrez Cuadros, the outgoing governor of Arequipa, for allegedly supporting terrorism. Gutiérrez accused the journalists of using the radio stations to incite people to violence during protests against the privatization of two companies, Egasa and Egesur. The journalists he criticized are Robert Silva Fernández, Walter Castillo Chávez, Federico Rosado Zavala of the program “Melodía en la Noticia,” and Eduardo Coaguila Ortiz, Benjamín García Sucila, Jorge Velásquez González, Hugo Rucano Paúcar and José Urrea Ríos of Radio Melodía. José Abandto Cerdán, a photographer for the newspaper La República, was hit on the head with a Molotov cocktail while covering a clash between demonstrators and police in Arequipa. The demonstrators also attacked the office of Editora Perú, which publishes Peru’s official gazette, El Peruano in that city. On June 17 the Chimbote correspondent of the newspaper Liberación, Marilú Gambini, was threatened and followed by unknown people because she was investigating corrupt acts allegedly committed by members of the judiciary in Chimbote and people linked to the former República bank. Months earlier, unknown people had attacked and kidnapped her son in an apparent reprisal for her journalistic reports. Demonstrators attacked Bernabé Calderón, correspondent of the newspaper El Comercial in Madre de Dios on July 5 and took away his camera. On July 11 the special prosecutor’s office asked anti-corruption judge Magaly Báscones to declare a third party Editora Sport S.A. civilly liable in the case against its owner Moisés Wolfenson. According to the petition, part of the money that Wolfenson allegedly received from the National Intelligence Service “in exchange for defaming opponents of the Fujimori regime in his ‘prensa chicha’ newspapers” went to the company that publishes the newspapers El Chino and El Men. For that reason, it said, the company should participate in paying any damages if its owner is convicted. Anti-Corruption Court 1 ruled on July 11 that the Laboratorio de Grafotécnica should make an expert analysis of the sales contract of the new press on which the newspaper El Tío is printed. According to the contract, the machine cost $180,000. However, José Olaya, the paper’s owner, said the signature on the contract is false. He said the machine cost only $80,000 and refuted the charge that it was undervalued. Henry Ramírez of Televisión Nacional de Perú, Luz Martínez of Frecuencia Latina and Perla Villanueva of Canal N were attacked on August 5 by workers of the agro-industrial business Casa Grande in Trujillo who were demanding payment of their salaries. Demonstrators attacked reporters covering the protest and tried to take away their equipment. On August 11, six years after the events, the National Judges Council dismissed four Supreme Court justices for misconduct in the trial brought by Francisco Diez Canseco Távara against journalist César Hildebrandt. The decision says the justices unjustifiably delayed the trial until the statute of limitations had expired. Hildebrandt had reported in his program that Diez Canseco Távara held noisy parties late at night disturbing his neighbors. Reporters Ximena Pinto and Milagros Aro of the Sunday program “Cuarto Poder” on América Televisión were attacked on August 14 by members of the evangelical group Iglesia Comunidad del Espíritu Santo “Pare de Sufrir,” when they tried to gather information for a report on the congregation’s rituals. When the reporters tried to leave, they were surrounded by about 10 people who hit them and took them to a dark room where the attacks continued. The attackers were trying to take away their backpack, which had a video camera in it. The police intervened and the reporters managed to escape. No one was arrested. Williams Perka Chamba threatened Mary Espinoza Santiago, director and host of the news program “El Regional Informa” on Radio Studio 99 of Sátipo, with death after she reported on her program that vehicles of Proyecto Especial Pichis Palcazú were used to transport members of Perú Posible political party to La Merced to register the lists of candidates for the coming regional and municipal elections. Three members of Partido Acción Popular attacked Josué Ibarra Julca, a photographer for the newspaper La Industria, on August 26 as he covered news at the party’s headquarters in Chimbote. Terrorists of the self-styled Communist Party of Peru threatened a group of journalists on September 26, forcing them to transmit political messages. The subversives sent two messages that frightened Gudelia Machaca, Dósito Marmanillo and Pedro Yarasca of radio station Wari and Jhony Medrano and Héctor Ore of Radio Mélody. The first message said, “We know your relatives: we have a thousand eyes and a thousand ears.” The second message demanded that the Peruvian government close the jail where Shining Path leaders Abimael Guzmán Reynoso and Elena Iparraguirre are being held. Police entered the radio station to seize the documents and summoned the journalists to testify about what had happened. In early October the Judges’ Control Office (OCMA) made public a report saying that Judge Carmen Escalante had committed serious irregularities that compromised the trial involving lawyers of Panamericana Televisión and Genaro Delgado Parker for the management of Canal 5. The OCMA said the irregularity involved the handling of the protective order requested by Delgado Parker, which the judge had accepted on a diskette outside the courthouse. Doris Aguirre, a reporter for the newspaper El Popular, was verbally attacked October 7 by National Police Col. Luis Valencia Hirano in the building of the Criminal Investigation Division (Dinindri). The colonel accosted Aguirre in the building’s elevator, saying that it was only for officers. Col. Valencia held the elevator in the building’s basement for 15 minutes while he insulted the journalist. Television host Laura Bozzo Rotondo of the U.S.-based Telemundo network, who is under house arrest in Peru on charges of irregularities relating to links to Montesinos, sent a statement saying she is “a victim of irresponsible journalism and defamation.”