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The frequency of attacks on the media and physical violence or threats against journalists has long been high in a country still marked by the years of civil war between the armed forces and Shining Path, which left a toll of 70,000 dead from 1980 to 2000.
Murders of journalists are now rare. But physical attacks on journalists, committed openly in broad daylight by civil servants, police officers, union representatives or even elected officials, are still common in Peru. They are compounded by acts of censorship and intimidation by the government, which often tries to blame the media for unrest and violence.
La Voz de Bagua, a radio station based in the Amazon region, was silenced in June 2009 after allegedly inciting violence. Televisión Oriente, a TV station based in the Amazon town of Yurimaguas, was stripped of its licence at the behest of the transport and communications ministry seven months later. Like La Voz de Bagua, the TV station had complied with all the legal requirements but, as they had done in the case of the radio station, the authorities claimed that it had failed to do so within the established deadlines.
Interior minister Mercedes Cabanillas publicly threatened several news media with closure for allegedly “supporting” the use of violence against the security forces during the June 2009 riots by indigenous communities against the granting of mining concessions to multinationals in ancestral lands. Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco, the editor of the Bagua-based weekly Nor Oriente, was freed by the supreme court on 18 June 2010 after serving five months of the one-year jail sentence he received on 12 January 2010 on a libel charge. However, another journalist was sentenced to a year in prison on a defamation charge just ten days before Carrascal’s release. It was Oswaldo Pereyra Moreno, the presenter of Radio Macarena’s “Hora 13” programme in the northern town of San Lorenzo.
Raúl Wiener, the head of the investigative section of the daily La Primera, was extraordinarily charged in early 2009 with a “crime against public peace” and “terrorism” after revealing that similar charges had been brought against 13 people suspected of links with the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Parliamentary outrage about the case forced the government to deny any involvement in the prosecution.
The judicial system works slowly or not at all in the most serious cases of violence against journalists. The 2004 fatal shooting of radio journalist Alberto Rivera Fernández led to an incredible series of judicial U-turns designed to spare the local government officials suspected of instigating his murder. To protests from Rivera’s family, former Pucallpa mayor Luis Valdez Villacorta and Solio Ramírez Garay, a former Pucallpa official, were acquitted by a Lima high court on 8 February 2010 for “lack of evidence,” setting a grave precedent that will just encourage more impunity.
Updated in June 2010
Peru - 26 February 2013
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