MIAMI, Florida (June 29, 2016)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described as "an act of intimidation, an excessive action and a restriction of press freedom in Peru" a criminal charge by the Ministry of Defense made against journalists of the television program Panorama for the offense of "betrayal of the fatherland" after airing a report on irregularities in the handling of Army funds.
The Peruvian Defense Ministry accused the director of the investigation program, Rosana Cueva, reporter Karina Novoa and all the members of the news team that took part in the report of the charge of "betrayal of the fatherland." If brought to trial they could face up to 15 years in prison.
Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, declared that the Defense Ministry's criminal charge is "an act of force and intimidation of those who practice investigative journalism, it is excessive and a restriction of freedom of the press."
"Reactions such as these," Paolillo added, "discourage in-depth journalism out of fear of reprisals, generate self-censorship and restrict the people's right to be duly informed."
The Defense Ministry legal office accused the journalists of having put in danger the country's security through "revealing national secrets" through the report aired on April 17. The Lima 20th Criminal District Attorney's Office is evaluating the lawsuit in order to decide if an investigation is to be opened.
Panorma disclosed the irregular handling of the budget assigned for works of military intelligence in the valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers, in an area of the South American country thrown into turmoil by drug traffickers and terrorists.
Official documents in relation to expenses in September 2015, to which Panorama had access, revealed the falsification of pay slips to fictitious informants, some of whom denied on camera having received money and having collaborated with the Armed Forces, and there is shown a squandering of money and the writing of fraudulent intelligence reports.
Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, stressed that "to allege that the report revealed secrets that affect national security is inconsistent with reality, as it was an investigation that showed the commission of several offenses, including the misappropriation of public funds in an institution that instead of being interested in diverting attention concerning this serious matter should assure Peruvians that this regrettable anomaly will be corrected."
On informing the television viewers of the accusation the Panorama director explained that to do the report "there was even interviewed the general who was in charge of the budget, who spoke with the authorization of the Defense Ministry and along with a Ministry press team. Today, due to that report, which makes a serious wrongdoing public, we are being threatened with being put on trial for betrayal of the fatherland, which implies up to 15 years' imprisonment. We will keep you informed."
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.