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Journalist receives death threats, is falsely accused of attempting to blackmail jailed drug trafficker

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 23 February 2008, "El Comercio" newspaper, based in Lima, reported a failed attempt to implicate one of its journalists in blackmail. The attempt was carried out by Luis Dávila Melgarejo - an alleged drug trafficker currently in prison - and was directed at journalist Miguel Ramírez of the newspaper's investigative reporting unit.

In two articles published on 22 and 23 February, Ramírez reported that he obtained an official permit from the National Penitentiary Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario, INPE) to interview Dávila Melgarejo, who is linked to the network of drug trafficker Fernando Zevallos, also known as "Lunarejo". The prisoner agreed to speak with the journalist in the Yanamilla prison, Ayacucho region, southern Peru. A photographer and two INPE security guards were present during the meeting. The interview had began when prosecutor Óscar Núñez Mora came to the prison to investigate a complaint filed by Dávila Melgarejo's wife just minutes before, alleging that the journalist had attempted to extort her husband.

Thanks to the INPE guards' testimony, the prosecutor was able to ascertain that no extortion was taking place. Nevertheless, IPYS finds the incident suspicious and will be calling for an investigation.

"El Comercio" said that on the same day, 22 February, two telephoned death threats against Ramírez were received via the newspaper's main switchboard.

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