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Journalist detained, injured, threatened with intelligence surveillance by Army officers

(AMARC/IFEX) - Genaro Alvarado Tuesta, 18, a journalist with La Voz de la Selva radio station, was assaulted and illegally detained on 16 June 2008 by Peruvian Army officers while he was conducting an interview with Freddy Huayunga Vela, a soldier wounded in a confrontation with members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) guerrilla group, at the Santa Rosa military hospital where the latter was recovering. The incident occurred at 6:00 a.m. (local time), when the reporter went to the hospital to interview Huayunga Vela about the confrontation at a guard post with the Colombian guerrillas.

According to a national radio organisation, the Coordinadora Nacional de Radio (CNR), five minutes into the interview "a group of Army members burst into the room. After being restrained, Alvarado Tuesta's hands were tied and he was detained in another room for approximately 30 minutes. The soldiers also seized his personal effects, including the radio equipment."

A number of other journalists from various media outlets went to the hospital to demand their colleague's release. According to an article at the CNR website, when he was freed, Alvarado Tuesta stated, "they cut me on the chest, destroyed my clothing, and warned me that their intelligence service would keep me under surveillance. We were only seeking the truth, and that's why we were interviewing the soldier. The military authorities never tell the truth about these kinds of incidents. That's why we did everything we could to get the interview. I'm going to file a complaint against the soldiers that mistreated me."

On 17 June, Alvarado Tuesto filed a formal complaint against his assailants at the Fifth Office of the Prosecutor for both criminal and civil cases in Maynas, accompanied by Rita Ruck Riera, a human rights lawyer from the Iquitos Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicarariate, for physical and psychological mistreatment and kidnapping.

In subsequent public statements, Alvarado said "we don't trust the Army, especially because the Commander of the Fifth Military Region of Eastern Peru, Francisco Vargas Vaca, has denied that FARC guerrillas are present in our border region."

Vargas Vaca, in turn, filed a complaint against Alvarado Tuesta, claiming that the journalist had entered the hospital using a false identification document and that had had offered money to the soldier to get him to agree to be interviewed.

Both of these accusations against the journalist were refuted by colleagues from other media outlets. According to CNR, "'La República' newspaper journalist Rosa Cárdenas asserted that she was with Alvarado Tuesta when he entered the hospital, and he had presented his national identification card for that purpose." Another journalist, Jorge Carrillo, editor of "Pro&Contra" newspaper, took a similar position, asking the military commander to be more tolerant of media outlets' work, emphasising "they are only seeking the truth about events."

Lilia Reyes Ruiz, a representative of the Ombudsman's Office, condemned the assault, and announced that an investigation of the incident will be conducted.

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