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Report reveals northern Peru as most dangerous area for journalists

(IPYS/IFEX) - 14 January 2013 - A total of 95 attacks against the press were reported by Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) during the last year, 18 of which took place in Lima, the capital, in a tie with the region of Cajamarca, followed by Lambayeque with 16 attacks. With this, the north of the country has become the most dangerous area for free journalism in Peru.

Cajamarca continued to be in 2012 the seat of the Conga mining project conflict, which in its second year resulted in several abuses against journalists, who in their effort to cover the events that confronted the Yanacocha mining company and opposition groups and politicians, were attacked by groups of protesters, politicians and even policemen. Incidents in Cajamarca escalated towards the middle of 2012. They climaxed on 14 June when local journalists and national correspondents who were covering a clash between protesters and the Police in the La Recoleta square were fiercely attacked by a group of policemen.

Incidents in Lambayeque peaked between May and June 2012, as reported by IPYS. The conflicts were different but equally dangerous to local journalists. In a context of violence unleashed by civil construction workers, some reporters were assaulted by the relatives of members of a controversial union, linked to a network of extortion. However, most of the attacks against the press came from councilmen, public officials and the supporters of Roberto Torres González, Mayor of Chiclayo, capital of the region, who was removed from office on 22 May.

Public Officials and the State

In general, public officials were the quintessential aggressors against journalism in 2012, a trend that the country has seen for several years. According to IPYS' annual report, 22 officials attacked journalists, followed by groups (14 cases) and unidentified persons (13). These last were often linked to the same officials, who allegedly used them to carry out their attacks. For example, on 23 May, Magno Nava Flores, director and presenter of the program "HuariInforma", broadcasted by Radio and TV Huari, in Ancash, was beaten and robbed of a video camera by two masked men who were later identified as being hired by a local politician.

It is also a matter of concern that members of the Police were the aggressors in at least 11 cases and that the State was responsible for 10 attacks against free expression in 2012.

One way these attacks are increasingly occurring is through the prosecution of cases against journalists, starting with complaints filed by authorities who have little tolerance for the scrutiny of the press, followed by prosecutors who accept these accusations, and then judges who issue disproportionate sentences, outside any international standard for the protection of free speech. An abusive use of the power of the State is evident, a typology that IPYS reported on 21 occasions during 2012, linked to a legal framework that opposes international standards, in what amounted to 12 cases.

Among other relevant cases of prosecutions against journalists in 2012, IPYS raised its voice when on 5 June 2012, the editor in chief of Diario 16, Juan Carlos Tafur, and journalist Roberto More, were given a two-year suspended prison sentence by a judge in Lima and ordered to pay 60,000 soles to retired General Antonio Ketin Vidal Herrera, who sued them for alleged aggravated defamation, in a trial riddled with due process complaints.

Physical and verbal

However, the largest percentage of aggressions against free expression in the country in 2012 were expressed as blows, pushes, thefts, among other forms of physical violence. IPYS reported 37 physical attacks (against media or people), many of them the outcome of verbal attacks, which were reported on 30 occasions.

A sample of such violence was the sad and unfair attack against Pepe Atanacio Vásquez, director and host of the program "El super Especial del Terrible de la Noticia", broadcast by radio Ccorawiri of Andahuaylas, on 31 July 2012. The journalist was attacked by a mob because of his criticism of two leaders of the teachers union. His attackers broke into the radio station, beat him savagely, cut his hair, walked him through the city and then took him to another radio station to warn other eight journalists from the Apurimac region, located in southern Peru, that they could receive similar punishments.

See graphs of these statistics

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