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IAPA concludes mission to Peru

(IAPA/IFEX ) - Miami, May 24, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today depicted as positive its recent international mission to Peru. Mission goals were to review the overall state of press freedom in the South American country and discuss specific cases of news media and individual journalists who are prevented from working without restrictions.

IAPA 1st Vice President Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, declared, "In Peru a systematic government policy to limit freedom of the press has not been identified," and he welcomed a commitment by the three branches of government to look into specific cases in which the right to freedom of information was violated.

One of the most noteworthy successes occurred during the delegation's meeting with the head of the Peruvian Judiciary, Javier Villa Stein. Stein accepted the IAPA's recommendations and pledged that cases involving murdered journalists, when committed because of the victims' work, might be dealt with in special criminal courts.

During a joint press conference with the IAPA at the end of the meeting on Friday, Villa Stein stated that he would submit this initiative to the consideration of the Judicial Executive Council "since this kind of case should be treated in a special manner due to its gravity and how it affects society's right to be informed."

Contrary to a previous rejection by the Judiciary to set up a special criminal court to deal with crimes against journalists, on this occasion Villa Stein considered the IAPA proposal to create a special jurisdiction to be beneficial and in line with Peru's existing courts that hear cases of drug trafficking and terrorism.

The legal initiative received the express support of President Alan García who, following the meeting with the IAPA international delegation, stated that if it is approved by the Judiciary the government would provide adequate funding to establish such a special jurisdiction.

Referring to the broad range of cases raised with the president, Marroquín voiced his organization's satisfaction at the "firm demonstration and commitment of President Alan García to respect freedom of the press and of expression." At an hour-long meeting the president promised to look into the closing of radio station La Voz de Bagua, whose reopening is pending an administrative decision from the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

La Voz de Bagua is a small radio station in the Amazonian town of Bagua. It was shut down last year by the government following violent protests by members of the local indigenous community that left 24 police officers and 10 protestors dead. Carlos Flores, director of the radio station, was found not guilty of charges of sedition and fomenting crime, but officials are still keeping the station closed for alleged operational and transmission equipment violations.

On the matter of Canal 4 television's property rights, which have been threatened by the channel's former owner, José Enrique Crousillat, currently at large following retraction of a presidential pardon, President García gave the IAPA assurances that those rights would be respected by the government. Crousillat was granted the pardon because of his age (78) and ill state of health after his extradition from Argentina and after serving part of a sentence for corruption for "delivering" the channel's editorial support to Vladimiro Montesinos for $80 million.

García also expressed his hope that the justice system will soon fully solve the murder of Alberto Rivera Fernández. A ruling is pending on the identity of the mastermind behind the crime. Rivera was killed in Pucallpa on April 21, 2004.

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