Report to the 71th General Assembly
Charleston, South Carolina
October 2 – 6, 2015
Journalists have been subjected to increasing attacks, threats, and acts of intimidation in areas outside Lima.
The most severe attacks occurred during the protests against the Tía María mining project in Arequipa, amid confrontations between those who oppose the project and police officers.
Both sides assaulted journalists. Some local underground radio stations broadcast names of journalists to encourage people to attack them for giving favorable coverage to the mining project.
Local authorities, particularly mayors and regional governors, have carried out constant attacks against journalists who denounce acts of corruption or abuses of authority.
The journalistic investigations and reports on political power are also triggering hostile behavior toward journalists. Rosana Cueva, director of the television program "Panorama," was called before Congress and attacked verbally by legislators of the ruling party.
The highest-profile case involving impunity in crimes against journalists is the murder of Hugo Bustíos, a correspondent for Caretas magazine, by members of the military in Huanta, Ayacucho, in 1988. The prosecution is seeking a 25-year prison sentence for the former interior minister of the current administration, Daniel Urresti, for having ordered the killing. At the time of the killing, Urresti headed of the Intelligence Service of the Castropampa Battalion. The prosecution is also considering whether to seek 500,000 soles in reparations for the journalist's family.
On the judicial front, a decision remains pending in the injunction sought by eight journalists from multiple media outlets against the El Comercio publishing company, which purchased 54% of the shares in Epensa, now called Prensmart, not including the editorial content produced by the company Grupo Epensa SAC, which is wholly owned by the Agois family.
The request for an injunction cites Article 61 of the Peruvian Constitution, which states that media outlets "may not be subject to exclusivity, monopoly, or hoarding, either directly or indirectly, by the State or by private citizens." The claimants argue that the purchase of Epensa shares by El Comercio constitutes a hoarding of print media outlets.
The journalists who are seeking the injunction, represented by Rosa María Palacios, filed a petition on September 10 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the Peruvian government for the judicial branch's slowness in ruling on the injunction request. The journalists are concerned that the IACHR may consider their request to be a violation of the right to the administration of justice in Peru.
On August 24, 2015 — one year after the death of the editor of Caretas magazine, Enrique Zileri Gibson, who was one of the complainants — the siblings Marco, Drusila, Sebastián, and Doménica Zileri Dougall sought to assume their late father's role in the case as his heirs. The constitutional court ruled in their favor on this issue on September 3, 2015, and referred the case to a civil court in Lima, which must rule on the objections before the case is returned to the constitutional court for a verdict.
Grupo El Comercio (GEC) argues that more than two years have passed since the Epensa/Prensmart (EP) merger and that during this time no anticompetitive practices of any kind have occurred — or have been alleged to have occurred. Since the merger, neither GEC nor EP has been able to slow the drop in their circulation numbers, a trend that has affected the press since mid-2014.
Also during this time, GEC has not once interfered — or been accused of interfering — in the editorial management of Grupo Epensa. Meanwhile, more competitors have been entering the market; last year saw the emergence of two new print newspapers, which have proven competitive.
Former police colonel Benedicto Jiménez filed a criminal complaint against Marco Zileri, editor of Caretas magazine, and journalist Américo Zambrano for the alleged crime of aggravated defamation. Jiménez is currently behind bars for his involvement in a network of corruption and money laundering (the Orellana case).
Despite this, a criminal court in Lima has ordered "a preemptive lien, in an amount of up to 80,000 soles, on the shares and rights belonging to Marco Zileri." The defense has appealed this ruling.
It is troubling that, as of the writing of this report, the plenary session of the Peruvian Congress was continuing to delay its debate on the proposed Electoral Code and the reforms to the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Citizens' Rights to Participation and Oversight, submitted in 2011 by the authorities of the three electoral bodies. The proposal of these authorities calls for effective penalties in response to a lack of accountability and failures, which constitute a blatant violation of the constitutional right to the free flow of information and of access to public information in Peru.
Below is a chronology of attacks on journalists:
August 25: Journalist Paul Pilco Dorregaray, a correspondent for Correo newspaper in Apurímac and director of the program "Informativo de las 7" on Channel 11, Televisión Amistad (Abancay), was threatened by Commander Víctor Langle Flores of the Peruvian National Police for a story that made reference to the fact that the officer had been discharged as a disciplinary measure.
August 21: Gonzalo Cubas Patow of Amazonía Radio and Amazonía Televisión, Channel 6, Yurimaguas (Alto Amazonas), was threatened by two individuals for allegedly denouncing irregularities during the term of the mayor of Balsapuerto.
August 15: Diego Cáceres and Víctor Dueñas Medina, journalists for Radio Santo Domingo (Casma), were attacked by individuals acting at the behest of the governor of Áncash, for questioning the irregular manner in which local property titles were being granted.
August 14: Journalist Dayana Cieza of the program "Panorama" on Panamericana Televisión de Lima received a death threat after reporting on the benefits enjoyed by some inmates in a Lima prison.
August 14: Carlos Zanabria Angulo, a correspondent for El Comercio, was attacked by agents of the National Police while covering a parade at the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa. The journalist was detained and roughed up while he was taken to the police station.
July 12: Andrés Vargas of Canal 15 Satelital in Trujillo, La Libertad, along with his cameraman and an assistant, were attacked by informal miners who beat them, destroyed their equipment, and confiscated their recorded material to prevent them from reporting.
June 17: Journalist Roberto Carlos Medina of Castillo de TV Tarapoto was threatened in graffiti messages and insulted on social media and in text messages, presumably for having criticized the mayor.
May 24: Manuel Calloquispe Flores, a correspondent for El Comercio and the environmental press agency Inforegión in the Madre de Dios region, had his photography and video equipment taken from him while he was investigating illegal gold mining in Puerto Túpac Amaru.
May 21: Jean Guevara Cornejo, a journalist for El Norteño newspaper in the Lambayeque region, was attacked while he was recording the entrance of hooded individuals into an office building and covering the protests of workers at the Pomalca sugar plantation in Chiclayo province.
May 14: Victoria Bazán Cossi, director of the JBC radio station and Channel 8 TV, was attacked by police officers during the confrontations with residents of the district of Majes, in Caylloma province. Alonso Ramos, a correspondent for Frecuencia Latina, was injured in the leg while covering the confrontation between protesters and police in Cocachacra and Arequipa, during a violent protest against the Tía María mining project. Jonathan Bárcena of La República was threatened that he would be killed if he continued taking photos of the protest. Elmo Rivera Medina of Canal 10-ATV had his camera broken.