(IPYS/IFEX) - On Friday 22 September 2000, ruling party Member of Congress Luis Cáceres Velásquez confronted and insulted the editor of "La República" daily, Rosa Reyna, as a group of journalists searched for the congressman to question him about his views on current issues.
According to a number of different newspapers which reported on the events the next day, the incident occurred at about 11:00 a.m. (local time) on 22 September, in the Hall of Lost Steps (Hall de los Pasos Perdidos) in the Legislative Palace. The congressman walked towards the group of journalists and asked in an aggressive tone whether there was a journalist from "La República" there, so that he could "pull her by the ears" into his office, to show her in person how he works. Cáceres Velásquez insulted Reyna and accused "La República" daily of being the country's number one enemy and of creating political instability.
According to the version of the events reported in "La República", when the journalist identified herself as an employee of the daily, the congressman unleashed a series of insults directed against her and the newspaper, stating: "'La República' daily is the country's most loathsome newspaper." Reyna severely reproached the parliamentarian for his conduct and the dialogue became more heated. Cáceres Velásquez insisted that she come to his office, while he threatened her by saying: "Be thankful that you are not a man, because if you were I would work you very hard."
The congressman pushed and shoved the journalist into his office where he instructed his advisor to show her the projects they are working on. While in the office, the congressman continued to insult the journalist and the daily, telling her that "...it is garbage, this newspaper is a brothel, and I will repeat it a hundred times." Later, the office staff closed the door so that Reyna was unable to leave until security personnel arrived. One of the reporters who was inside, Eduardo Lindo from Peru Radio Programmes (Radio Programas del Perú), was able to enter the office and broadcast the incident live.
After the incident, Reyna suffered an anxiety attack and was immediately taken to the Congressional medical centre.
Subsequently, when parliamentary reporters arrived at Cáceres Velásquez's office to ask for an explanation about what had occurred, the government representative - rather than offer an apology -continued to threaten the press, stating: "I am not apologising to anybody. If [Reyna] had been a man, I would have lifted a hand. Those journalists who want to create problems by mud-slinging will have problems with me."
Cáceres Velásquez's attack on Reyna has provoked energetic reactions of disapproval from parliamentarians of different parties, journalists and a number of civil society institutions. The Free Press (Prensa Libre) association has urged the Congress directorate to suspend the congressman. The Parliamentary Press Club of Peru (Círculo de Cronistas Parlamentarios del Perú) has asked for a statement from the parliamentary authorities, and has declared Cáceres Velásquez persona non grata, while qualifying his actions as an attack on press freedom.
Cáceres Velásquez is one of the so-called
"turncoat" members of Congress who, after being elected on other slates, joined the ruling party, thereby allowing it to gain a majority in Congress. Another of the "turncoats" is Member of Congress Alberto Kouri Bumachar, who appeared in a video, presented by members of the opposition, which showed him receiving money from presidential advisor Vladimiro Montesinos after signing an alleged contract in which Kouri Bumachar promised to form part of the majority government.
On Tuesday 26 March, President of Congress Martha Hildebrandt presented an apology to Reyna in the name of the Congress directorate. The apologies have been well received by the journalist and the newspaper. Cáceres Velásquez has not commented on the incident to date.
Send appeals to authorities:
- protesting the acts of aggression and demanding sanctions against the perpetrator
Ing. Alberto Fujimori
President of the Republic
Fax: +51 1 427 6722 / 426 6535
Dr. Federico Salas Guevara Shultz
President of the Council of Ministers
Fax: +51 1 447 1628 / 475 0689
Dr. Martha Hildebrandt Pérez
President of Congress
Fax: +51 1 426 8290
Dr. Jorge Santistevan de Noriega
Fax: +51 1 426 6657
Please copy appeals to the source if possible.