Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

During this period, the predominant role played by the Attorney General's Office, the primary entity responsible for aggression against journalists and media, is alarming. Their attacks include espionage, infiltration, demanding disclosure of sources, harassment, and preventing coverage of events of public interest. Last year, the Public Ministry displaced Congress, the National Police of Peru, and the Executive Branch as aggressor institutions.

This aggressive trend of the Prosecutor's Office has been increasing since the administration of the nation's prosecutor, Patricia Benavides. Although in past governments, particularly in the 1990s, the Prosecutor's Office was not a bulwark of defense of freedom of expression, it was not its aggressor either.

Congress continues to desire to extend the prison sentence for defamation. Congressman Segundo Montalvo is its leading promoter. In December, he presented a project to modify the Penal Code and expand the current defamatory sentences from one and three years to three and five years, which would apply the effective prison sentence. He also proposes extending the days of fines in cases of slander. Seven months ago, Congress did not approve, in a second vote, a similar initiative presented by Montalvo.

For his part, Congressman Segundo Quiroz Barboza of the Magisterial Bloc presented a bill to modify the Penal Code to establish that the official who disseminates reserved, secret, or confidential information about a criminal investigation will be punished with a punishment of between three and five years in prison. The sanction would also apply to anyone who spreads the information through the media. Quiroz withdrew his initiative days after presenting it.

No severe cases of aggression by the Executive Branch were detected, although its control over the National Institute of Radio and Television persists. TV Perú and Radio Nacional journalists have reported to the Peruvian Press Council (CPP) the harassment they suffer from high authorities.

In March, the president of Peru, Dina Boluarte, criticized the press for reporting that she wore Rolex watches and high-value jewelry that she did not record in her sworn statements and whose origin she refused to report. She suggested that the media coverage could be due to sexism or discrimination. According to journalism, the value of the jewelry is disproportionate compared to their past and present income. The president accused El Comercio of providing "biased and false" information after the newspaper reported that she had about US$300,000 in personal and joint bank accounts.

In November, the Congressional Justice Commission approved a bill that could criminalize the dissemination of effective collaboration processes investigated by the Prosecutor's Office. The initiative indicates that prosecutors must preserve the confidentiality of the contents of the process, which could lead to penalization of whoever leaks the information, even though it could be information of public interest, including journalists and the obligation to reveal their sources.

Popular Action Congressman Luis Cordero Jon Tay presented a bill in March that penalized disseminating adequate collaboration information.

This initiative seeks to prevent information of public interest – included in an investigation process through effective collaboration – from reaching citizens through administrative or criminal sanctions against prosecutors who disseminate it. The initiative also seeks to ensure that journalistic publications lack evidentiary value. The press identified Cordero Jon Tay and other members of Congress who signed the project as actors in alleged acts of corruption. Her sister María de Ella, a congresswoman suspended for appropriating the salary of her workers after the press uncovered the crime, could benefit if Parliament approves the law.

In November, during the virtual hearing to appeal prosecutor Rafael Vela's suspension, the National Control Authority (ANC) of the Public Ministry prevented press access. National and international media could not witness the session, which was of public interest given Vela's role in the tax investigations of the Lava Jato case.

In December, amid complaints against Attorney General Patricia Benavides, who was suspended for alleged acts of corruption, it was learned that José Luis Huayón, the lawyer of the Sodalicio de Vida Cristiana, a religious group accused (by journalists such as Paola Ugaz Pedro Salinas and Daniel Yovera), of sexual, psychological and economic abuse, would have asked Benavides that a case against Ugaz not be archived. The journalist was being investigated for alleged money laundering, a case filed in July 2023. Ugaz, Salinas, and Yovera have suffered systematic harassment by figures linked to Sodalicio.

In January, prosecutor Andy Junior Rodríguez Domínguez established espionage and video surveillance of at least two journalists, César Romero and Juan Carlos Tafur, from the media La República and Sudaca, respectively. The Prosecutor's Office ordered the monitoring of journalists during the administration of the suspended national prosecutor Patricia Benavides, within the framework of a broader investigation into a corruption case called "Los Cuellos Blancos del Puerto," in which various figures are involved. Of politics and the judicial system investigated by the journalists above. Prosecutor Rodríguez points out in his resolution that some articles by them and their media indicate the commission of corruption crimes. According to the document, monitoring and surveillance actions were ordered against the journalists and people linked to them, taking photographs and recording images in public places, in the immediate vicinity, and even inside their homes.

The Prosecutor's Office is investigating journalist William Torres Carrasco for "violence against authority" about congresswoman Kelly Portalatino, from the Peru Libre party, with which former president Pedro Castillo came to power. Portalatino had initiated legal action against the journalist after Torres, host of the program "Última Palabra" on the Somos Televisión media outlet from Chimbote, in the Áncash region, addressed her at a press conference for a report that accused his father and partner of alleged acts of corruption in the Regional Government of Ancash.

In this last period, there was also an increase in cases of aggression against journalists by municipal officials from different cities in the country.

In November, followers of the mayor of the northern city of Trujillo, Arturo Fernández, verbally and physically attacked a cameraman for the Sol TV channel and a photographer for the newspaper La Industria. The incident occurred after a municipal official incited the aggressors against the media.

During a session to reconsider the suspension of the mayor of Trujillo – vacated from office –held at the municipal headquarters, a group of supporters forced entry and verbally and physically attacked councilors and journalists from various media, including Sol TV, La República, Canal N and N60.

During the broadcast of a report by the program Punto Final on the Latina television channel about a mafia that adulterated and created false secondary education certificates, WhatsApp threatened a journalist from the media.

In December, the journalist from the Piura region and host of the Contacto Informativo program on La Capullana radio, Clemente Rodrigo Vargas Siancas, reported having been threatened and harassed by the councilor of the Municipality of Sullana, Oswaldo Clavijo Heras.

RPP journalists Deysi Portuguez and Pedro Goñi were verbally and physically attacked by protesters while covering a demonstration in downtown Lima. Vinegar was thrown at both of them, and Goñi was hit on the head with a banderole stick.

Photographer Juan Zapata, from the digital media Wayka, was attacked by a police officer while covering a protest against the release of former President Alberto Fujimori in front of the headquarters of the Judiciary.
The Superior Court of Justice of Lima declared unfounded the appeal of a defamation conviction against the magazine Caretas Enrique Chávez and Carlos Cabanilla's journalists. The court convicted the journalists of a crime against the honor to the detriment of former congressman Ernesto Ramón Gamarra Olivares and ordered a two-year custodial sentence – which does not imply an effective prison period – and the payment of compensation of about US$13,000. The journalists were also sentenced to one year for defamation against María del Pilar Brescia Álvarez, Gamarra's wife. In an article signed by Cabanillas and appearing in a February 2020 edition of Caretas, it was noted that a judge requested preventive detention for Gamarra for extortion, blackmail, and organized crime and that his wife and daughter were involved. The family indicated at the time that these crimes recorded in the note were false, and the Superior Court of Justice of Lima reported that the file against Gamarra did not exist. Caretas indicated that he had rectified the content of that document on three occasions, but despite this, the demands continued.
In January, the radical right group "La Resistencia" distributed leaflets against journalists Gustavo Gorriti and Rosa María Palacios. They accuse Gorriti of being a terrorist and Palacios of defending them.

Reporters Jacqueline Martínez and Juan Carlos Portilla, from the ATV and Latina television channels, were harassed by a group of people during the arrival at the High Complexity Crime Investigations Division of Fray Vásquez Castillo, the nephew of the former president Pedro Castillo. for alleged acts of corruption who remained a fugitive for almost two years.

The National Police of Peru threatened the newspaper La República with legal action after cartoonist Carlos Tovar (Carlín) drew three identical police officers with a description about each of them that read: "Criminal in a police suit" / "Criminal police" / "Police doing their duty." In a statement, the Police indicated that the cartoon affected his institutional image. A few days later, the institution presented a notarized letter demanding that La República and Carlín rectify themselves within no more than 48 hours.

In February, the regional governor of Tumbes, Segismundo Cruces Ordinola, disqualified the press at a conference. He called her "double meaning" and "trunk" and criticized his management.

In an eviction in the San Martín region, prosecutor Ysabela Melania Falcón Fretel ordered members of the Peruvian National Police to remove journalist Guti Gutiérrez Pacaya from the scene, even though she was covering the event.

The general of the National Police of Peru, Augusto Javier Ríos Tiravanti, threatened, through a notarized letter, the social media program La Encerrona with "legal action" if it was not rectified. He claimed that his honor and reputation had been affected. The program reported that Ríos had been relieved of the leadership of the III La Libertad Macro Police Region for having been investigated for alleged links to a criminal organization related to illegal mining.

The Fuerza Popular political party criminally denounced journalist Gustavo Gorriti, director of the IDL-Reporteros portal, among other people, for allegedly being a member of a criminal organization that would have incurred bribery, influence peddling, and other crimes. The complaint is based on unfounded statements by Jaime Villanueva, former advisor to former National Prosecutor Patricia Benavides. Members of Congress from Fuerza Popular indicated that Gorriti would be part of the party's political persecution. Then, the prosecutor's office opened an investigation against Gorriti and prosecutors and requested to lift the secrecy of the journalist's communications. For years, Gorriti and his media outlet investigated alleged corruption committed by Fuerza Popular and its leader, Keiko Fujimori.

Journalists Thaís Casalino and Rafael Vereau, from the Contracorriente program, on the Willax channel, were attacked by a worker from the Shougang Hierro Perú mining company in the Ica region.

In March, a journalist from the newspaper La República Liubomir Fernández was pressured and intimidated to publish reports about mafias made up of police officers who defrauded hundreds of people through pyramid networks in the Puno region. The journalist pointed out the lawyer Enrique Calmet Choque as one of the alleged perpetrators. It is not the first time that he has suffered harassment and persecution. Last year, after reporting on the negligence of a Peruvian Army authority, which ended with six soldiers drowning in the Ilave River in Puno, he was threatened on social networks. The Army and the Police followed him up.

In mid-March, journalist Rosa María Palacios was approached when leaving a supermarket by a group of people who followed her, yelled at her, insulted her, and intimidated her. They called her a "liar," a "traitor," a "defender of terrorists" and told her that "she should be imprisoned." Palacios has been harassed several times by radical groups, such as the self-proclaimed "Resistencia."