Radio journalist Julio Castillo Narváez’s murder in Virú (in the northwestern department of La Libertad) on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, has cast a further shadow over a day that is meant to be a celebration for journalists and media all over the world. Unidentified gunmen shot him six times while he was having lunch in a restaurant.
His death was very probably linked to his work as the producer of a news programme on Radio Ollantay. He had been very critical of the regional authorities and had been having problems with them. The police said they found a message threatening him and another journalist, Rafael Sánchez, in his mobile phone.
Castillo, 41, is the first journalist to be murdered in Peru since Miguel Pérez Julca, who was gunned down in similar circumstances in the northwestern city of Jaén on 16 March 2007.
“Those investigating Castillo’s murder should give priority to his dispute with the regional authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The political aspects of the case will almost certainly result in attempts to pressure the investigation. The government and judicial authorities must prevent this. We saw similar pressure in the Pérez case, which ended up with the arrest of hit-men but not the instigators.”
The press freedom organization added: “The authorities most move quickly to end the recent spate of press freedom violations without waiting for a new president to be elected on 5 June. They must also explain why Castillo and his radio station were not given the protection they requested.”
According to the Lima-based Press and Society Institute (IPYS), Castillo had accused Herbert Jiménez Urquiaga, a member of the regional council, and his wife of involvement in a dubious real estate deal. His allegations had been followed by an act of vandalism against Radio Ollantay. The station reacted by unsuccessfully requesting police protection for its premises and staff.
As well as Castillo’s murder, there has been a disturbing series of acts of harassment and attacks on the press since the start of the year and two journalists are currently in prison on defamation charges.
Another South American journalist was also murdered on World Press Freedom Day. It was the Brazilian journalist Valério Nascimento, who was gunned down outside his home in Rio de Janeiro state.