CPJ concerned about possible involvement of municipal authorities in case of murdered journalist
March 25, 2004
Nelly Calderón Navarro
Av. Abancay Cdra 5, Piso 9
Via facsimile: +51-1-426-0514
Dear Mrs. Calderón:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the murder of Peruvian journalist Antonio de la Torre Echeandía, who was killed after leaving a party on February 14, 2004, in the city of Yungay, in northern Ancash Department. Based on recent developments in the case, we are concerned Yungay authorities may have been involved in his murder.
The 43-year-old de la Torre, host of the news program "El equipo de la noticia" (The News Team) on Radio Órbita, was stabbed by two unidentified men on his way home in the evening. According to local news reports quoting his wife and son, before dying on the way to the hospital, de la Torre identified one of his killers as "El Negro," a nickname for Hipólito Casiano Vega Jara, who worked as a driver for the Yungay mayor's office. The police have arrested Vega. Antonio Torres, who was a friend of de la Torre's and allegedly led the journalist to the scene of his murder, was also arrested.
De la Torre was a harsh critic of another former friend, Yungay Mayor Amaro León, whom he accused of malfeasance, nepotism, and corruption. In 2002, de la Torre had worked as a campaign chief for León, the Lima-based daily La República reported. After León won the elections, he appointed de la Torre head of the municipality's public relations office. The two parted ways, however, three months later, when de la Torre resigned after discovering several instances of alleged corruption, according to La República.
Julio César Giraldo Ángeles, owner of Radio Órbita, said that de la Torre had been threatened and attacked several times. In October 2003, unidentified individuals hurled a homemade explosive device at the journalist's home in the middle of the night, Giraldo said. De la Torre had also received several anonymous threatening letters before his death, according to Giraldo.
De la Torre's family has blamed Mayor León for the murder, but León has rejected any involvement in the crime.
On March 17, at the request of the Yungay Public Prosecutor's Office, an Ancash court ordered León and his daughter detained on charges of masterminding de la Torre's murder in an attempt to silence the journalist. According to Prosecutor Luz Marina Romero Chinchay, two other municipal workers have been charged as accomplices in the crime. The four are jailed in a prison in Huaraz, the capital of Ancash Department. Another man charged in the murder remains a fugitive.
CPJ is pleased that the Attorney General's Office has carried out a prompt investigation into de la Torre's murder. We urge you to continue this effort by conducting an exemplary prosecution of this case so as to leave no doubt that crimes against journalists in Peru will not go unpunished.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Ann K. Cooper