The country is in the midst of an electoral process that will determine the next president and the makeup of Parliament for the next five years. The term of the current president, Ollanta Humala Tasso, will end on July 28, and the president-elect will then take office. The rulings of the National Elections Board have caused confusion among the candidates, and this confusion is reflected in the media coverage.
This period has seen continued attacks, threats and acts of intimidation against journalists for their work in connection with allegations of governmental corruption and protest actions. The electoral process has brought greater risks for journalists working outside the capital.
Leaders of the Popular Force party headed by Keiko Fujimori Higuchi, who is ahead in the polling among potential voters, assaulted several journalists in the city of Arequipa. A video shows the attack on Max Manuel Gutiérrez, a cameraman for TV Mundo Noticias Arequipa.
One of the main problems facing journalists in Peru, especially outside the capital, is what happens when they denounce acts of corruption. The provincial authorities typically launch into harsh attacks on journalists and harass them in an effort to stop them from doing their work.
An alarming case is that of Paul Pilco Dorregaray of the newspaper Correo de Apurímac and Carlos Peña of ATV Abancay in the town of Pacotamba (Apurímac). They were assaulted by the mayor's family members for disagreeing with his ideas.
David Bazán Arévalo, the mayor of Tocache province, verbally assaulted, threatened, and attempted to physically assault Miller Cueva Pérez, a journalist with the Concierto radio station, for having questioned the mayor's actions in office.
After a two-year delay in which the justice system failed to act on the complaint brought in November 2013 against Grupo El Comercio regarding the purchase of shares of Empresa Periodística Nacional Epensa, the complaining journalists, represented by Rosa María Palacios, filed a complaint in September 2015 with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the Peruvian government for delayed administration of justice.
The complaint was brought against Empresa Editora El Comercio after its August 2013 purchase of 54% of Epensa's shares, not including editorial content, which meant that 80% of consumers would be covered by the company's nine newspapers, out of a total of 60 newspapers in all of Peru. This purchase, according to the plaintiffs, had an adverse effect on freedom of information and pluralism in the news.
Daniel Urresti, a former interior minister and former presidential candidate for the ruling party, is under investigation for possibly having ordered the murder of Hugo Bustíos Saavedra in 1988, when Urresti was an army officer in Ayacucho.
The Human Rights Commission (COMISEDH) recently revealed that one of Urresti's defense witnesses was unaware of his involvement in the case. Eliseo Gavilán Gavilán stated that he did not know that he was to testify before the National Criminal Court, meaning that he was named as a witness without his permission. He also claimed that he was taken to Lima on the promise of a job opportunity worth 2,000 soles, which never materialized.
On March 20, Marco Falconí Picardo, who is seeking reelection to Congress as a member of the Alliance for Progress, filed a lawsuit against Julio Ancalle Gutiérrez, Carlos Navea Paredes, and Iván Slocovich Pardo, seeking 10 million soles (U.S.$3.3 millions) in damages in connection with journalistic reports that he had received a salary and holiday bonuses while on leave from Congress.
A resolution approved at the 70th General Assembly of the IAPA in Charleston underscored the troubling consequences for freedom of information in the event that the Peruvian Congress and executive branch did not pass the electoral reform package by the end of the legislative session in December 2015.
Unfortunately, weeks after President Ollanta Humala called for general elections on April 10 and during a special legislative session, the approved laws turned out instead to be an aberrant electoral “counter-reform” package that led to the climate of confusion described above.
One thing that was achieved, albeit only on an initial basis, was the ability to learn about candidates’ background records. For example, the Peruvian people previously had no legal mechanism for finding out whether candidates for high-level office had ever been convicted of drug trafficking, pedophilia, embezzlement, etc
As has been customary since the general elections of 2001 in Peru, on March 30 the Peruvian Press Council called on the presidential candidates to sign a document titled “The Lima Principles: Freedom of Expression and Access to Government-Held Information.”
All nine candidates have signed off on these principles.
An addendum on freedom of expression on the Internet — and, in particular, the government’s obligations to ensure that crimes against journalists do not go unpunished and to compensate the family members of victims — was added to this document in 2016.
More than 50 journalists have been killed in Peru in the past 20 years, and all of these cases remain unpunished.
On October 15, Wilson Villegas Saldaña, a journalist for W TV – Channel 22, Cable Moyobamba, was harassed and threatened by members of autonomous peasant patrols while covering the 24-hour preemptive general strike called by the peasant patrols in the San Martín region.
On November 12, Germán Juárez Bustamante, a reporter for the Telesur television network and Expresión radio station in the city of Ilo, in the Moquegua region, was physically assaulted by a mid-ranking officer of the Peruvian National Police. Juárez was recording a police traffic stop of a pickup truck when the officers attempted to prevent him from doing his work, assaulting him and damaging his equipment.
On November 22, journalists Germán Medina Lu of CBS Televisión and Frank Quispe Zevallos of Ribereña Televisión, in Nasca province, Ica region, were physically assaulted by a businessman whom they identified as responsible for irregularities in a public works project.
On November 24, reporter Diego Cáceres Hinostroza and cameraman Jhann Ramírez Flores of Best Cable TV in Casma province, Ancash region, were assaulted by police officers while covering the eviction of merchants from municipal property.