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Journalist assassinated in Yungay

(IPYS/IFEX) - Antonio De la Torre Echeandía, a 43-year-old journalist for Radio Orbita in the city of Yungay, Ancash region, was assassinated on 14 February 2004 while on his way home after attending a party.

According to information obtained by IPYS, De la Torre Echeandía was stabbed by two individuals who intercepted him in the Pampac neighbourhood. Although mortally wounded, De la Torre Echeandía was able to return to the location where the party had taken place. The police and the journalist's family, who were immediately notified, took the journalist to hospital, but he died in transit. Before dying, he identified one of his attackers as an individual who is known by the alias "El Negro".

Jorge Ulloa Ágreda, a doctor at Yungay's Central Hospital who attended to De la Torre Echeandía, said the journalist died as a result of multiple stab wounds.

With respect to probable motives for the assassination, IPYS was told that a few days earlier, the journalist had included a segment called "With Truth and Justice" ("Con verdad y justicia") in Radio Orbita's news programme. The segment had been highly controversial as it aired complaints from community members and reported on the actions of government bodies, using colloquial language.

Roberto León, a colleague of De la Torre Echeandía's, told IPYS that the journalist "used crude terminology and made very direct accusations." León also said that his colleague had been receiving anonymous death threats on a continuous basis. As such, León believes that De la Torre Echeandía's assassination may be linked to the accusations he made on the radio. The journalist's wife confirmed that he had been receiving threats.

After the assassination, the Yungay police launched an extensive operation that resulted in the capture of one of the journalist's killers, Hipólito Casiano Vega Jara. The 35-year-old Vega works as a driver for Yungay Province Mayor Amaro León León. Witnesses have said that De la Torre Echeandía had been involved in a heated discussion with Vega and another of the mayor's drivers, Demetrio Ángeles Figueroa, regarding the mayor's conduct. The journalist was a harsh critic of the mayor.

When IPYS inquired about the mayor's whereabouts, police responded that although León León was not in the city, he was not considered to have fled from justice.

Investigations are ongoing to find the second person involved in the murder and determine whether there were other individuals behind the crime.

The journalist was married and had three young children.

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