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Journalists Lilian Luna Villafuerte and Humberto De la Cruz assaulted by official; journalist Roberto Chalco harassed by police after being critical of rising level of insecurity in region

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 3 March 2009, journalist Lilian Luna Villafuerte, a correspondent for the "La República" newspaper, was hit in the stomach by Edie Reynaldo Pacheco Arredondo, a National Penitentiary Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario, INPE) official. The incident took place while Villafuerte was covering a story about the dismissal of five INPE workers accused of raping four inmates at the women's prison in Cusco, in southern Peru. The journalist told IPYS that she was taking photographs inside the Public Prosecutor's Office when Pacheco Arredondo pushed her and hit her in the stomach.

After assaulting Villafuerte, the INPE official turned on journalist Humberto De la Cruz, of TV Solar station, stabbing him with a pen in the right arm to prevent him from continuing his coverage of the story.

Pacheco Arredondo was taken to the police station and the journalists were examined by a forensic doctor.

IPYS condemns the assault on the journalists and calls on the prison authorities to ensure that Pacheco Arredondo is punished for his actions.

In a separate incident, also on 4 March, journalist Roberto Chalco, host of the "Horizonte Informativo" programme broadcast on Radio Las Vegas, said that two police officers approached him as he arrived at his home and demanded that he hand over his ID and driver's licence. The journalist complied, but the policemen then forced him to go with them to make a statement at the Quillabamba police station, in the Cusco region. According to Chalco, the police officers' actions were in retaliation for his criticism of the rising level of insecurity in the region and the work carried out by the police.

Chalco went to the police station with his lawyer, who demanded that a public prosecutor be present before the opening of a police report since the journalist had not committed a crime.

In the presence of the lawyer, the chief of police, Commander César Augusto Bedoya, apologised for the actions against Chalco, claiming that there had been a misunderstanding. However, later that afternoon Chalco found out through a personal source that a police report had been filed in which it was stated that he refused to cooperate with the police and insulted police officers.

IPYS contacted the Quillabamba police but the officers did not want to comment on the case.

Taking into account Chalco's criticism of the police, IPYS considers the actions against the journalist to constitute abuse of authority.

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