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Journalists receive death threats while covering protest

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 20 May 2009, a group of journalists reported to IPYS that they had received death threats from demonstrators at a strike held by Amazonian communities since 10 May in Yurimaguas, Loreto region, northeastern Peru. According to the journalists, the demonstrators, egged on by leaders of the Defense Front for the Development of Alto Amazonas, have labeled them as "traitors" and accused them of misinforming the public about the protest. The Front is demanding the abolishment of nine legislative decrees which the native communities believe violate their rights.

According to the reporters, the demonstrators threatened to lynch them and on 19 May, in the main square, a group of strikers used a megaphone to announce that they were going to murder the journalists.

The journalists also stated that the strike's leaders provided the press with special identification in order to allow them to cover the protest. They mentioned that priest Mario Bertollini and Abilia Tapuyima are among those leaders. The reporters declared that they have stopped covering the strike out of fear for their own safety.

They also pointed out that on 12 May the demonstrators attacked their vehicles, threw stones at their homes and harassed some of their relatives to stop them from reporting on the strike.

The threatened journalists are: César Viena, of Canal 6; Nancy Chagnamote and Pompilio Peña, of Radio Stereo X; Yashin Salas and Limber Tapuyima, of Canal 10; Jhony Pezo, of the website , José Torrejón, of Radio Nova Star; Lesly Flores, of the magazine "El Renaco"; Abel Ríos and Roosbelt Pinedo, of Radio Poder; Roger Torres, of Radio Doble A; Waldemar Villanueva, correspondent for América TV and Marcelino Aguilar, correspondent for Radio Programas del Perú.

Spokespersons for the National Radio Coordinating Committee (CNR), a network to which several of the region's radio stations belong, confirmed that the situation in Yurimaguas is violent.

IPYS asked the Ombudsman's Office for Conflict Resolution to act as a mediator in the conflict and support the journalists' request for protection.

IPYS protests the harassment of the journalists and the measures taken by the Defense Front, as they threaten press freedom and the people's right to be informed. IPYS also calls on the Front's leadership to ask all demonstrators not to attack the journalists.

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