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Journalists threatened by coca growers' leader, ask for protection

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 5 November 2007, twelve journalists from the town of Tocache, in San Martín region, northeastern Peru, asked the local government for protection and filed a complaint with the Provincial Prosecutor's Office after receiving threats. Sergio Gonzáles Zapata, head of the coca growers' association "Saúl Guevara Díaz", apparently threatened the journalists during an association meeting held in advance of a strike which began on 2 November. The leader accused the reporters of misinforming the public and urged the farmers who were at the meeting to attack them.

The journalists threatened were Angélica Reyes, Peter Donato Torres, José Saldaña Vela, Ketty Vela Ruiz, Roger Panduro Grandez, Daniel Grandez Montejo, Julio Aguirre Domínguez, Lita Guerra Tapullima, Hernán Vigo Albarran, Wagner Ruiz Sánchez, Oscar Cacique Sangama and Miguel Pinedo Sopla.

The coca leader's threats were recorded by Donato Torres, of Radio Concierto and Channel 24.

On 2 November, Saldaña Vela told IPYS that a group of coca farmers tried to hit him in the street, but he was protected by some local residents. Two days later, journalist Abel Gonzáles was detained by several coca farmers in Puerto Pizana - a district near Tocache - when he was returning to that town with his family. The farmers threatened him so that he would stop reporting on the strike. He was released thanks to the intervention of a neighborhood leader.

IPYS is concerned about the situation faced by journalists in the region and calls on the coca farmers' leadership to allow them to do their work. It also urges the Tocache government to protect the journalists as they have requested.

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