69th General Assembly

Denver, Colorado

October 18 – 22, 2013

The climate of tension and intolerance in which the press is forced to work did not abate in this period. Physical assaults, death threats, and incidents of judicial harassment continued against journalists and media outlets in retaliation for their criticism of government officials and organized-crime figures for alleged involvement in corruption and crime throughout Peru. A closely watched development in the fight against impunity in crimes against journalists is the ongoing trials for the killings of journalists Pedro Flores Silva (2011) and Alberto Rivera Fernández (2004), which have been the subject of numerous IAPA statements and missions over the past nine years. The killing of Flores Silva, a journalist for Canal 6 de Televisión in Casma, was the first case to be referred from the supraprovincial prosecutor’s office in Lima to the National Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction was expanded in November 2010 to include acts of homicide, severe bodily injury, kidnapping and extortion against active journalists, as a result of an initiative of the IAPA, the Peruvian Press Council (CPP) and the Legal Defense Institute. On August 29, Janett Mónica Lastra Ramírez, a judge for the National Criminal Court, opened the criminal trial of Marco Antonio Rivero Huertas, mayor of the Comandante Noel district, for having ordered the murder of Flores Silva. In September, the IAPA urged the Peruvian Supreme Court not to allow the 2004 killing of journalist Alberto Rivera in Pucallpa, Ucayali, to go unpunished. On September 4, the Transitional Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court requested that the May 2012 acquittal of former Coronel Portillo mayor Luis Valdez Villacorta and city manager Solio Ramírez Garay be set aside. According to the CPP, 57 killings of journalists between 1982 and 2011 remain unpunished. Complaints continue to be filed with the authorities against journalists and media outlets, and both civil and criminal cases continue to be used as a way of intimidating and coercing the press. A troubling lack of consistency is observed among judges in upholding judicial precedents and international standards on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as well as internal standards such as Plenary Agreement 3 2006/CJ-116 Case Law Concordance Article 116 TUO LOPJ, which clearly sets forth the legal environment for conflicts between “crime against personal honor and the constitutional right to freedom of expression and freedom of information.” Such are the cases of Marco Zileri Dougall, Américo Zambrano Romero and Eduardo Alson García Peña of Caretas magazine; Aldo Mariátegui Bosse, former editor of Correo newspaper; Pablo O’Brien Cuadros, former editor of the newspaper El Sol de los Andes; Fernando Valencia and Diego Hernández, editor and journalist, respectively, of the newspaper Diario 16; Fritz du Bois and Gessler Ojeda, former editor and journalist, respectively, of the newspaper Perú 21; and journalists César Aquino Escudero of El Observador magazine, Santos Paredes of the news program “La Verdad No Mancha,” and Noé García Velásquez, host of the program “En Democracia” on Canal 55 in the Ancash region. At its 2011 General Assembly in Lima, the IAPA urged the chief justice of the Supreme Court to restate the duty of Peruvian judges to abide by the plenary agreements; requested that the judicial oversight panel be instructed to investigate misconduct by judges whose rulings are contrary to freedom of expression; and invoked constitutional provisions on due process and guarantees. In June, however, the Constitutional Court ruled that the public should not be allowed access to information on corruption cases involving public officials on the grounds that this would undermine the defendants’ right to privacy. This ruling is in violation of the Constitution (Article 139, paragraph 4), which states that “judicial proceedings over the responsibility of public officials … are always public.” On September 12, Congress unanimously passed the Law on Information-Technology Crimes, which now awaits the signature or comments of President Ollanta Humala Tasso. It is hoped that a suitable, updated legal framework will be established to prevent and punish illegal acts that harm information-technology systems and data, since the law in its current form is plagued by major gaps that in practice could constitute a serious threat to press freedom. Specifically, the law calls for prison terms of 5 to 10 years when the crime involves classified information and/or information that compromises national defense, security or sovereignty. However, the law fails to include “public interest” as an exception, and it makes no explicit reference to exceptions on the grounds of national security, which are described in ample detail in the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information. In April and September, Congress scheduled its debate on the proposed “Law on Terrorism Denial,” which was postponed from December 2012 due to the controversy it elicited. The proposal would add Article 316-A to the Penal Code, calling for prison terms of 6 to 12 years for anyone who “publicly denies” any terrorism-related offense “set forth in a final judicial ruling, for the purpose of promoting the commission of crimes of terrorism or apologizing for terrorism or serving as a medium of indoctrination for terrorist purposes.” The law continues: “If the denial is expressed through the media or through the use of information and communication technologies, the prison term will be no fewer than eight years and no more than fifteen years ….” Despite repeated efforts, the Legislative Decree to Strengthen and Modernize the National Intelligence System (SINA) and the National Intelligence Directorate (DINI) remains in effect. In December, the CPP warned that this measure represents a severe setback in transparency, as it punishes and restricts the vigilance of the public and the press in matters related to national security. On April 4, the official government newspaper El Peruano published the regulations for Legislative Decree 1129, which governs the National Defense System approved by Executive Decree 037-2013-PCM. However, the direct link established in these regulations with the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information is insufficient and, in practice, undermine the transparency-related progress achieved as part of the Humala administration’s anticorruption efforts. The decree is also contrary to the government’s foreign policy related to disarmament and transparency in arms purchases. In a development seen as a potential threat to freedom of the press, Grupo El Comercio acquired a majority interest in Empresa Periodística Nacional S.A. (EPENSA) in August. Grupo El Comercio took control of 54% of EPENSA’s shares, with the Agois Banchero family retaining a 46% interest in the company, which will be responsible for production, marketing and distribution. Grupo Agois Banchero, meanwhile, will be in charge of journalistic content and editorial control of the newspapers Ojo, Correo, Ajá and El Bocón, as well as the various multimedia platforms; Grupo EPENSA S.A.C., a company wholly owned by Grupo Agois Banchero, was created for this purpose. Grupo El Comercio has said that the transaction does not violate any laws or the Constitution. Grupo El Comercio also says that plurality or diversity of opinion, press freedom, and the concentration of media outlets are not affected because the same newspapers will continue to be published. It further maintains that no position of dominance has been abused and, therefore, no monopoly exists. Grupo La República says that this transaction “makes free competition practically impossible and violates Article 61 of the Constitution.” Article 61 states: “The press, radio, television and other types of media, and, in general, enterprises, goods and services related to freedom of expression and communication, may not be subject to exclusivity, monopoly or hoarding, directly or indirectly, by the State or private parties.” Grupo La República warned of the consequences of this heavy concentration of print media outlets and of the dominant position that it creates. It also says that this process compromises diversity of opinion, a feature essential to a democracy. This topic sparked intense debate at the plenary session of this general assembly, with the parties expressing their willingness to find ways to address the matter without government intervention. Other significant developments during this period: On March 27, Javier Nilo Poma Sotelo, host of the “Huaraz Informa” news program on Global TV’s affiliate in Huaraz, Ancash region, reported receiving phone calls in which he and his family were threatened with death. He believes he was threatened for having broadcast images of violent incidents during student walkouts at Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo University. On April 1, Milton Vásquez Cruz, a cameramen for the “JC Noticias” news program on Julises TV in Cajabamba, Cajamarca region, reported that he had been assaulted while covering a public gathering of anti-mining demonstrators who were planning marches against the Conga and Sulliden projects. Vásquez’s camera was taken from him, and he was detained for three and a half hours. On April 4, Manuel Rosas Matos, host of the morning show on Radio Karibeña’s affiliate in Iquitos, Loreto region, reported that he was threatened by some 150 supporters of Loreto governor Yván Vázquez Valera. Rosas is a critic of the governor’s performance. On April 13, Pedro Valencia Olivera, host of the news show “Línea de Fuego” (Line of Fire) on the Nova Star radio station in the city of Yurimaguas, Loreto region, said he was accosted by Jeberos mayor Wilder Saldaña and four unknown individuals, who threatened to kill him and attempted to beat him. The journalist attributes the assault to his reporting on corruption in the municipal government. On April 21, reporter Roberto Ramírez and cameramen Jorge López and Orlando Cánepa, who work for Frecuencia Latina’s program “Punto Final,” said they had received death threats, which they attribute to the airing of a report showing acts of corruption by Rogelio Trelles, governor of Talara province, who tried to block the broadcast of the second part of the investigative series. On April 30, Iván Fustamante Gálvez, host of the “Sudamérica Noticias” news program on Radio Sudamérica in Cutervo, Cajamarca region, said he was threatened with a gun by brothers of Raúl Pinedo Vázquez, governor of Cutervo Segundo province. The journalist believes he was threatened for his reports on corruption in the municipal government. On May 18, Mauro Cecilio Ccapa Zapana, a correspondent for Los Andes newspaper in Lampa province, Puno region, said that María Quispe Quisocala, secretary to the mayor, threatened his life. The reporter attributes the incident to his reporting on the return of approximately US$14,000 from the municipal budget to the central treasury. On May 24, Jorge Moncada Mino, editor of El Ciclón newspaper in the city of Chiclayo, Lambayeque region, said he was the victim of a brutal assault by two unknown assailants who pistol-whipped him, leaving him with multiple wounds and fractures. The journalist attributes the incident to his investigation into illegal land transactions in the area. On June 21, Andrés Vargas Chávez and Harly Zavaleta Rojas, journalists for Canal 15 on UCV Satelital in La Libertad region, said they had been photographed and filmed by an unknown individual. The journalists attribute the incident to their investigation into a company’s alleged mismanagement of public works. On June 30, Gerardo Carrillo Burga, editor of the political and cultural blog in the Lambayeque region, said he had received a message on Facebook threatening his one-year-old daughter. The journalist attributes the incident to his support for a public protest against Chiclayo mayor Roberto Torres Gonzales. On July 4, Aleida Vásquez Vásquez, a reporter for Canal 41 on the Telenor television station in Lambayeque region, said she was assaulted by four police officers from the Special Services Unit while was filming an assault by police officers on a union leader during a protest against the Civil Service Law. On July 4, Luis Ángel Ñaupari Alcoser, an administrator and journalist for Radio Tropicana in Satipo province, Junín region, said that an explosive device had been detonated at the front door of the radio station’s building, causing damage on the order of 8,000 Peruvian nuevos soles. On August 8, Aurora Burgos de Flores, owner of Radio La Voz in the city of Bagua, Amazonas region, said that while her station is no longer facing criminal charges, it continues to suffer political persecution in the form of an unjustified attempt by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to force payment of an alleged debt. The owner attributes the retaliatory campaign, which included a 14-month shutdown of the station, to its broadcast of the armed forces’ expulsion of indigenous people at La Curva del Diablo, an incident known as the “Baguazo.” On August 11, Wyler Asmat Matta, a journalist for the program “Impacto Vecinal” in the city of Chimbote, Ancash region, said he was kidnapped by two unknown assailants after he was mistaken for his colleague Enrique Ponce. The journalist attributes the incident to Ponce’s investigation into irregularities in the case of Sheyla Arce, a young woman who was killed. On August 30, Oscar Peralta Rojas, owner of the Onda Popular radio station in Hualgayoc, Cajamarca region, said that members of the Bambamarca Defense Front, who oppose mining activity in region, decided to storm the station’s facilities because of its favorable reporting on mining projects in the area. On September 2, Tania Elías Lequernaqué, a journalist for El Tiempo newspaper in Piura region, said that the regional government had pulled its advertising from the newspaper after she had criticized the regional government in her opinion column. On September 24, Jhon Llatas Delgado, editor of the news site in Cutervo province, Cajamarca region, said that the Provincial Rural Patrol Committee had announced its intention to put him on trial for having denounced on his website an assault on police officers during the seizure of government offices. If found guilty, Llatas will be subjected to the so-called “patrol gauntlet,” a form of vigilante justice in which a variety of corporal punishments are meted out, including the use of lashing. The reporter recalled the case of Wilton Mera Collazos, who was tortured and killed by patrol members, and he sought protection from the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for Crime Prevention. César Álvarez Aguilar, the governor of Ancash region (in northeastern Peru), sued journalists César Quino Escudero, Santos Paredes García, and Noé García Velásquez for defamation. He is seeking one million nuevos soles (US$360,000) in damages from each defendant. The cases are being heard by Judge Susana Quispe Trujillo, who is also handling defamation claims filed by Álvarez against other journalists. On April 8, Gudelia Gálvez Tafur of “Huaraz Noticias” on Radio Alpamayo, Fortunato Guillermo Ibarra Méndez of “Primera Edición” on Global TV, and Juan Carlos Loayza Rivera, of “Destapa tus Oídos” (Uncover Your Ears) on Radio Melodía in the Ancash region said they were physically and verbally assaulted by members of the National Police while covering a student walkout at Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo University in Huaraz. On April 16, Gudelia Armida Gálvez Tafur, who produces and hosts the news show on the Alpamayo radio station, and who run the “Huaraz Noticias” website, in the city of Huaraz, Ancash region, said she had been physically and verbally assaulted by an unknown individual who threatened to kill her. One week later, her home and the educational institution where she works were painted with graffiti insulting her. The journalist attributes these incidents to her vigilant reporting on the performance of the rector of Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo University, who is also the mayor of Huaraz province. On May 13, Carlos Sánchez Sánchez, a reporter for Correo newspaper in the city of Chimbote, said he was being targeted in complaints filed by the Ancash regional government. The criminal charge against him, for aggravated defamation, stems from the publication of a viewpoint from a critic of César Álvarez, governor of the region. On May 15, Gudelia Armida Gálvez Tafur and Rosa Roque Díaz, who host and produce the news program “Huaraz Noticias” on Radio Alpamayo in Huaraz region, said their program was abruptly canceled. This measure, along with the graffiti that has appeared in various locations expressing insults against both of them, is part of the reprisals taken by the Ancash regional government. On May 21, Alcides Peñaranda Oropeza, editor of Integración newspaper and magazine in Huaraz, Ancash region, said he had been wrongly convicted by Rosana Luna León, a judge in the Ancash judicial district, and given a suspended sentence of two years in prison and ordered to pay 10,000 nuevos soles in reparations. The journalist was found guilty of libel against César Álvarez, governor of Ancash region. The case stemmed from the partial reproduction of a story from another media outlet, Hildebrandt en sus trece, which said that Álvarez is protected by the local prosecutors’ office. The reporter also described the verbal assaults to which he and his manager, Yolanda Quito, have been subjected. Quito was struck by an official vehicle of the regional government driven by Wilson Vásquez. On July 8, the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) reported that editors and directors of media outlets have been the primary targets in attacks on freedom of expression in recent months. Such are the cases of Fernando Valencia, editor of Diario16 in Lima; Alcides Peñaranda, editor of the newspaper and magazine Integración in Huaraz, Ancash region; Javier Poma of “Huaraz Informa” in Ancash region; and Gudelia Gálvez and Rosa Roque, news directors for “Huaraz Noticias” on Radio Alpamayo in Ancash region. The IPYS also noted that the region of Ancash has been a hotbed of attacks on the press. On July 22, Fernando Valverde, a journalist for various media outlets in Ancash region, said he had received death threats from supporters of Martín del Río Jiménez, governor of Llumpa. Valverde was threatened for his reporting on incidents of domestic violence involving the governor. The journalist is now in Lima, for fear that his safety would be in jeopardy should he return home. On August 20, César Quino Escudero, Santos Paredes García, and Noé García Velásquez—editor of El Observador magazine, producer of the television show “La verdad no mancha” (The Truth Does Not Stain) on channel 55, and host of “En democracia” on channel 55, respectively, in Ancash region—said that regional governor César Álvarez had wrongly accused them of libel, seeking one million nuevos soles in damages from each of them. On August 27, journalists’ organizations in the city of Chimbote, Ancash region, protested outside the Superior Court of Santa, demanding impartiality in the handling of the lawsuits brought by the governor of Ancash against journalists in Chimbote. The governor is seeking one million nuevos soles in damages from each defendant. On September 20, Humberto Espinoza Maguiña, a journalist for the newspaper Prensa Regional, said he had been convicted, in a trial plagued by irregularities, of criminal libel against regional governor César Álvarez as part of a series of reprisals for his reporting on corruption in the regional government. In August, Marco Zileri Dougall, the editor of Caretas magazine, was named in 11 libel suits filed by businessman Rodolfo Orellana Rengifo and his attorney, retired National Police colonel Benedicto Jiménez Bacca. In June, in a surprising and disproportionate measure, Zileri Dougall and journalists Américo Zambrano Romero and Eduardo Alonso García Peña were summoned to appear before a criminal court in Lima, under penalty of a nationwide arrest warrant. Orellana Rengifo is being investigated by the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Organized Crime and the Peruvian Congress for money laundering, illegal land transactions, fraud and conspiracy. On June 29, Américo Zambrano, investigative journalism editor for Caretas magazine, said he was assaulted by four unknown individuals as he was on his way to his home in Lima. The journalist ruled out the possibility of robbery as a motive, and attributes the incident to his reporting critical of Orellana and Jiménez. On September 18, journalist Aldo Mariátegui and his attorney, Enrique Ghersi, criticized the irregular nature of a ruling handed down by the Transitional Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court in a case involving a defamation-related offense for which the term of limitations had expired. Mariátegui and his attorney said that this ruling was made possible by the judges’ manipulation of the dates related to the progress of the case. In October, the courts reinstated five cases against Pablo O’Brien Cuadros, former editor of El Sol newspaper in central Peru, in the cities of Huancayo, Huancavelica, and Cerro de Pasco. O’Brien Cuadros had been acquitted in trials plagued with irregularities. In June, the 15th Family Court, presided by Judge Carmen Nelia Torres Valdivia, opened a trial against nine media outlets—Caretas magazine; the newspapers Perú.21, El Comercio, Ojo, El Chino, La Primera, El Popular and Extra; and Channel 2’s program “Reporte Semanal”—for disseminating explicit images of teenager Alexander Manuel Pérez Gutiérrez on January 13. The case involves a dispute over the publication of photographs of highly dangerous minors. On April 22, Pedro Yarango Quispe, a journalist who specializes in narcoterrorism, reported that Carlos Cosavalente Chamorro, a prosecutor for the Council of Ministers, had pressed charges against him for allegedly disclosing classified information through a media outlet. The reporter believes he is being prosecuted for his criticism of government policy in the restive area known as the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM), where remnants of terrorist groups continue to operate.