The IAPA praised Peru’s Supreme Court decision to overturn the acquittal and order a new trial for the main defendant charged in the 2004 murder of journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández.
The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division this week overturned the previous ruling in the case of Luis Valdez Villacorta, former mayor of Coronel Portillo city in Pucallpa, who was accused of masterminding the April 21, 2004, murder of Rivera Fernández. A new oral trial was ordered on the grounds of grave irregularities noted in the previous proceedings and the existence of evidence clearly demonstrating Valdez Villacorta’s responsibility for the crime.
Along with Valdez Villacorta, Solio Ramírez Garay, a former Coronel Portillo city official, was tried and then acquitted on February 8, 2010. He also faces a new trial.
IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín welcomed “this is a new and surprising development in this Rivera case… we had already given up hope that it would ever be solved.”
Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, added, “This ruling by the court is an important sign; it raises the level of respect that should exist for press freedom and is a sign of hope for his family and journalist-colleagues that an effort will always be made for justice to be done.”
Rivera Fernández worked at Radio Frecuencia Oriental in Coronel Portillo, 540 miles northeast of the Peruvian capital, Lima. He hosted the program “Transparencia” (Transparency), in which he criticized the performance of local officials. Between 2006 and 2007 seven people were convicted of his murder and are now serving prison terms ranging from 10 to 35 years.
Claudio Paolillo, co-chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly news magazine Búsqueda, recalled that the IAPA had sent a number of missions to Peru, in particular to Pucallpa, to investigate the murder and monitor legal proceedings. “Together with the Peruvian Press Council we have conducted campaigns and held joint meetings and missions -- insisting always to officials that this case is highly significant since it exemplifies all the characteristics of impunity – getting away with murder.”