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Journalists from Huanuco threatened with death by leader of coca growers as attacks on journalists increase throughout country

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF calls on the Peruvian government to monitor the soaring violence against the media, and said the country had accumulated one of the worst press freedom records in the Americas so far in 2007, with at least 50 attacks and threats documented.

"More than half of them, including one murder, occurred last month [in March] and Peru seems to be joining Colombia and Mexico as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work in," it said. "The involvement of local officials often slows down legal action against the attackers. We call for this alarming situation to be closely and formally watched by the authorities."

Opposition from coca farmers accounts for many of the attacks, which have been recorded by Peruvian press freedom organisations.

Roberto Gálvez, of Inforegión news agency, and cameraman Nicolás Álvarez were threatened on 7 March by Diógenes Niño, a leader of coca farmers (cocaleros) in Huanuco, who also threatened freelance journalist Miguel Campos and the correspondent of the daily paper "Correo", Sergio Madueño. He criticised their reporting of a cocalero protest.

Julio Aguirre Domínguez, of Radio Concierto, was physically attacked on 10 March by cocaleros in the northwestern town of Tocache who had been protesting for two days against destruction of their crops and who disapproved of the journalist's reporting. His camera was damaged, and the tape it contained destroyed, by a stone thrown by the protesters. Peter Donato, of Radio Emanuelle, was hit in the face and the legs the next day by the same demonstrators, who seized his dictaphone and camera.

Other journalists in Tocache said on 27 March that they had received many death threats since 16 March for similar reasons. Two Radio Emanuelle presenters, Daniel Grández and Abel Gonzáles, were "warned" on their mobile phones against criticising the violence of the cocalero protests. The station's owner, José Reátegui, was told on 23 March to shut down Gonzáles' programme or risk being killed. Grández was told a few days later of plans to murder him along with González, José Saldaña (Radio Libertad), Wagner Ruiz (Radio San Juan) and Ketty Vela Ruiz (Radio Marginal), all of them considered "enemies of the cocaleros."

Antonio Vásquez and Marcos Sifuentes, of the television station Frecuencia latina, were recording a speech by national water programme chief Carlos Arana in Lima on 9 March when militants of the ruling APRA party physically attacked them. The militants took Vásquez to a party office, interrogated him for half an hour and demanded his recordings. Sifuentes managed to film the attack with a hidden camera but six men chased and beat him as he left the meeting. He managed to escape with the help of a Frecuencia latina driver.

Edwin Gómez, of the daily "La Calle" and Radio Wari, was struck while at a public meeting in Ayacucho on 10 March by Yuri Revollar, secretary-general of a local teachers union, who destroyed Gómez's camera when the journalist tried to photograph him.

Michael Ortiz Munares, a local official in the southern town of Andahuaylas, urged people on 22 March to destroy the transmitter of Radio Panorama and run three of the station's journalists - Ronald Ripa, Mario Espinoza and Niño Gonzáles - out of town after they aired the opinions of listeners about pay increases for local politicians and officials. Ripa was threatened by Mayor Manuel Molina Quintana at a press conference on 27 March.

Two men on a motorbike threw a teargas grenade at the house of journalist Hermes Rivera in the northeastern town of Cajaruro on 22 March. He had received threatening text-messages since 18 March warning him to stop investigating the murder in Jaén on 16 March of journalist Miguel Pérez Julca, of Radio Éxitos.

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