16 October 2014
During this period the political and social scene has become worse in the context of regional, provincial and district elections in October. It has been a violent political campaign with the murder of three candidates and physical attacks, death threats and legal harassment of journalists and news media. It is the product of reprisals for denunciations by the press of public officials and the collusion of candidates with organized crime. There have been setbacks in the battle against impunity in crimes against journalists, in detriment to the expectations that in 2010 gave rise to an increase in the ability of the Supraprovincial Criminal Courts and Supraprovincial Prosecutor’s Offices of Lima to deal with crimes committed against journalists. The authorities have not yet identified the murderers of Donny Buchelli Cueva, host of the program “Más Noticias” (More News) on Más Radio, who was tortured to death on July 8 at his home in Pacasmayo province, Lambayeque region. Several days earlier he had begun a public campaign questioning the professional and ethical profile of candidates for provincial mayor in the October 5 elections, for which reason it has not been ruled out that the crime may have been committed in response to some denunciation he had made as part of his work as a journalist. The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information in late June staged an exploratory mission to Lima to evaluate the state of press freedom. This was as a consequence of a complaint of concentration of ownership of nationally circulating print media made by eight journalists. The Grupo El Comercio group took control of 54% of the shares of Epensa (now Prensmart S.A.C.) and the Agois Banchero family retained 46% of the company in August 2013. For its part the company Grupo Epensa S.A.C. remained 100% in the hands of the Agois family with total control of editorial content of the group’s newspapers. The media concentration controversy has been taken to court. In November 2013 eight journalists denounced the purchase operation before the Lima Fourth Constitutional Court presided over by Judge Juan Macedo Cuenca, calling for it to be declared invalid according to what was said in press freedom reports prior to this one. The suit is based on Article 61 of the Constitution, which says that the press, radio, television and other social communication media and in general companies, properties and services relating to freedom of expression and communication cannot be the object of exclusivity, monopoly nor stockpiling, directly or indirectly, on the part of the government or individuals. In May the Lima 17th Special Court partially admitted a suit filed by the Grupo El Comercio group asking it to declare the legality of the purchase-sales contracts between El Comercio and Epensa. The judge decided to continue the proceedings with La República as this media outlet “reveals a certain economic interest.” He thus dismissed the charges against the eight journalists. Both court rulings confirmed the judicial branch of government as the body competent to resolve the controversy. The Grupo El Comercio holds that the association with Epensa does not include the purchase of contents, which continue to be edited and published under the full responsibility of the Agois Banchero famiy and without the group having any involvement in them. In that regard it specifies that the commercial transaction has not broken any law or the Constitution. It adds that neither the plurality or the diversity of opinions, nor freedom of the press nor media concentration will be affected, as it continues to publish the same newspapers as before the acquisition. Neither has it engaged in abuse of a dominant position and it recalled that it has presented to the IAPA a Commitment to Commercial Self-Regulation in which it is committed to not engage in abuses of a dominating position and this is what it is complying with, the group declares. For their part the plaintiffs hold that “the business of printing and commercializing newspapers and advertisements on the part of the Grupo El Comercio signifies that Epensa 1 (Grupo Epensa S.A.C.) – owned by the minority shareholders – is always going to be in relation to subordination with Epensa 2 (Prensmart S.A.C.), as on this depends that it covers its costs and moreover that is put in circulation its newspapers and contents. Is its independence guaranteed, as El Comercio argues, with its strategy of division of Epensa?” News media concentration and its effect on freedom of expression and plurality, fundamental values of a democracy, were the subject of multiple debates in national and international forums in the past six months. They were at the Organization of American States, Legal Defense Institute, National Human Rights Coordinator, El Comercio, universities, Carter Center, Peruvian Press Council, among others. In May the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held a public hearing titled “The state of the right to freedom of expression and news media concentration in Peru” at the request of the Legal Defense Institute (IDL) and the National Human Rights coordinator. In April the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared that the IAPA exploratory mission to Peru had as its objective to determine if the government or Congress are or are not coming up with laws to regulate the press. The IAPA exploratory mission in late June was headed by IAPA President Elizabeth Ballantine and made up of three former presidents of the organization, Edward Seaton, Raúl Kraiselburd and Danilo Arbilla, and Claudio Paolillo, Fernán Molinos, vice chairman of the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, and Ricardo Trotti, the organization’s Press Freedom Coordinator. The IAPA mission met with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, Supreme Court Chief Justice Enrique Mendoza, former Council of Ministers Chairman Solomón Lerner Ghitis, and Member of Congress Manuel Dammert of the Acción Popular-Frente Amplio coalition, who was seeking a press law. It also met with representatives of the Peruvian Press Council, Radio and Television Consultative Council, El Comercio, Epensa, La República and the journalists heading the constitutional appeal. Also with executives of the National Confederation of Business Institutions (CONFIEP), Legal Defense Institute, Pro Human Rights Association and Peru’s Pontifical Catholic University’s Democracy and Human Rights Institute. There continues to be a continual and persistent indiscriminate and tendentious use of the courts in filing civil and criminal lawsuits against journalists and media, in particular the self-styled “Orellana Group” of businessman Rodolfo Orellana Rengifo, the object of an investigation by the Organized Crime Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, the Peruvian Congress and numerous media on charges of money laundering, trafficking in land, fraud and unlawful association to commit crime. On June 20 Enrique Mendoza, head of the judicial branch of government, urged criminal judges to review disputes with journalists on criminal libel charges in order to prevent situations of scare tactics and violation of press freedom. He asked judges to look into expressions that allegedly damage the reputation or privacy of those who consider themselves victims of journalistic denunciations, particularly of judicial authorities, politicians and police officers in Tumbes, Ayacucho, Tarapoto and Chiclayo. On June 20 the director of the association LIBER, Julio Arbizu, together with a committee of journalists and lawyers, met with the head of the judicial branch of government to deal with the issue of journalists with legal actions against them or being sued in civil court in recent years by the Orellana group. Since 2011 Orellana has filed suit against more than a score of journalists to prevent them continuing to investigate him. He also filed a criminal lawsuit against two news media. The objective of the meeting was to formally complain what this group had been doing before the courts, turning them into a tool to silence the press. Peru’s Press and Society Institute (IPYS) and the Peruvian Press Council have complained that the lawsuits filed by Orellana and Benedicto Jiménez (his lawyer) are part of a pattern of judicial harassment of the independent press and an attempt to silence investigations We have recorded a significant setback in connection with the citizen’s right of access to public information. For example, until three months ago the transparency websites of the Executive Power were not updating on a quarterly basis the basic information established in the Act on Transparency and Access to Public Information. In October, none of the websites had updated the information. The Executive Power failed to respond to the request of access to public information submitted by the civil society organizations which activities are of public interest. Chronology of the most relevant attacks in this period On March 26 Christian Sotomayor, a reporter with the program “Punto Final” (Final Point) broadcast by Frecuencia Latina Canal 2 television channel sought security guarantees from the Interior Ministry and the Northeast Police Region after receiving anonymous death threats for his denunciation of corruption in the Chiclayo municipal government. In October the mayor was arrested and accused of heading a criminal organization that embezzles huge sums from the municipality. On March 26 Karina Guillén and Eduardo Barreda, staff writer and photographer of the Arequipa newspaper Correo, were attacked and detained by force for more than two hours by a mob of land traffickers that seized their equipment and cel phones in the district of Cayma, in the southern province of Arequipa. The leader, Gil Zapana, demanded the presence of the newspaper’s editor as a condition of releasing the journalists. Barreda was hospitalized with injuries to his face. On April 1 TV Cultura reporter Rudy Huallpa Cayo was injured at the headquarters of the Punto regional government. He lost vision in his left eye as a consequence of the impact of a rubber bullet fired by a police captain, who aimed his rifle at him despite his wearing a press jacket. On April 12 unidentified persons seized equipment valued at more than $10,000 from the broadcasting plant of Radio Noticias 24 Horas, located in Juliaca, Puno province. According to the general manager the incident was understood to be connected to denunciations of corruption by the fugitive mayor of the municipality of Lampa, against whom an arrest warrant has been issued on a charge of embezzlement. On April 21 it was reported that Raúl Silvano, host of the news program “Entre el poder y el pueblo” (Between Those in Power and the People), and Henry Vela, a reporter with the Radio Ayahuasca team in Nauta, Loreto province, received death threats ordering them to stop broadcasting complaints about the work of the mayor. On April 22 Yofré López Sifuentes, editor of the weekly barranca.pe and host on Radio Santana in Barranca province, Lima region, reported that unidentified persons set off an explosive charge at the door of his home, causing material damage and injuring two members of his family. He attributes the attack to his reports denouncing companies for contaminating the area. On April 24 journalist Manuel Calloquispe Flores, correspondent of the environmental news agency INFOREGIÓN and of the magazine InfoRegión, sought guarantees for his personal safety due to continual death threats for his coverage of organized crime linked to the mining industry. On May 14 Pilar Fernández Infante, producer and reporter of the programs “Controversia” (Controversy) and “Caiga quien Caiga” (Fall Who May), broadcast by Canal 21 television in the Tumbes region, complained that agents of the National Penitentiary Institute (INPE) sought to intimidate her by firing shots into the air and denying here entry into the Puerto Pizarra prison where she was seeking to report on contamination of waters spewing out of the place. On May 28 John Vásquez Pastor, a reporter with Panamericana Televisión, was beaten and detained by officers of the National Police of Peru (PNP) as he was covering police action against a group of doctors on strike at a Lima hospital. On June 4 Carlos Vargas Rengifo and Raúl Ruiz Inuma, reporter and cameraman of the program “En Directo” (Live) broadcast by Amazónica TV Canal 35 in Loreto, were attacked and dragged and had their equipment seized by officials of the Office of Citizenry Participation as they were filming heavy equipment owned by the local government. The violence increased when the press went to cover what was happening. Also attacked were Roger Taricuarima Isuiza, director of the program “Día 7” (Day 7) of Canal 21 television, Fabricio Escajadillo of the program “Punto Final” (Final Point) of Frecuencia Latina Canal 2 and Pauner Portal Talexi, reporter with radio station Karibeña and the newspapers Crónica and La República. On August 22 Karen Layza Mariano and Luis Azabache, reporters with Canal 15 television in the city of Trujillo, were attacked as they sought to interview the mayor about complaints of embezzlement of funds in the construction of a non-existent highway. On September 20 Ruth Palacios Olaya, a journalist with the program “Caiga quien Caiga” (Fall Who May) broadcast by Cable Visión in Tumbes, reported intimidation and threats in anonymous phone calls, in text messages and on Facebook due to her denunciations of alleged criminal activity by public officials. On September 22 Alfredo Vilchez Román, host of TV Norte Canal 25 in Tumbes, was attacked and beaten after reporting on alleged wrongdoing committed during the Tumbes provincial mayoress’s term.