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Journalist investigating Ucayali regional government's alleged corruption receives death threat

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 2 April 2008, journalist Smilzinia Mendoza Ramírez, director and conductor of Radio Pucallpa's programme "Conexiones", denounced that as she was walking down the street an unknown person pushed her, insulted her and threatened to kill her, without any apparent motive. The incident took place in the town of Pucallpa, Ucayali region, eastern Peru. The journalist told IPYS that this was the third act of aggression against her in a month. She believes that the threats may be related to her coverage of allegations about corruption in the administration of Ucayali's regional president, José Velásquez Portocarrero, which she has been reporting on since 2007.

According to Mendoza, the first act of aggression took place in March while she was covering an assembly organized by the Ucayali Defense Front (Frente de Defensa del Departamento de Ucayali, FREDEU). The meeting was interrupted by a group of local residents led by Alejandro Soriano, who has close ties with the regional president. The regional media pointed out that this group had been created to boycott the assembly organised by FREDEU, which opposes Velásquez's administration.

The confrontation erupted into a fight between the two sides during which Soriano's group attacked reporters Maribel Monroy, correspondent of America Televisión television station, Alex Segovia, of the newspaper "Ímpetu", Fernando Alfaro, of UTV Canal 19 television station, and Mendoza.

On 16 March, the same group of locals (led by Alejandro Soriano and Ever García) attempted to thwart another FREDEU meeting. Mendoza was covering the events when a woman identified as Anita Cachuay walked towards her and threatened to kill her with the knife she was holding. When she noticed that the journalist was taping her, the assailant stated that she was not going to murder her and that it was only a threat.

IPYS condemns the acts of aggression against Mendoza and other journalists of the region and requests the authorities to investigate the incidents in order to sanction those responsible.

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