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Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Peru

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1998
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Peru, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c56547c.html [accessed 31 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In the aftermath of Peru's hostage crisis, which ended in April with a military raid of the Japanese Embassy compound in Lima, the contentious relationship between the press and the government of President Alberto Fujimori took a turn for the worse. While the Peruvian press is able to report with few restrictions, individual journalists are often subjected to threats, intimidation, and harassment after their stories are published. Many local journalists believe that President Fujimori is trying to muzzle the press in anticipation of his bid for a third term as president in 2000.

The Peruvian military has shown a particularly low tolerance for any sort of public scrutiny. The most alarming example was the campaign directed against muckraking television station Canal 2, known as Frecuencia Latina. Tensions between the station and military authorities began to mount in late 1996 when Canal 2 reported on links between the members of the army and drug cartels. In May, the station aired an interview with a former military intelligence officer who alleged that the army had tortured her and murdered colleagues to prevent them from making public the existence of a secret plan to assassinate several of the country's top journalists. The allegations contributed to a climate of fear among Peruvian journalists, particularly those covering the military.

On July 13, Canal 2 broke yet another major story, airing conversations taped by government security forces who were spying on journalists. The same day the story was aired, Peru's immigration office issued a decree invalidating the Peruvian citizenship of the station's owner, Baruch Ivcher. The government alleged that Ivcher, an Isreali immigrant, had failed to follow the proper administrative procedures when he was granted Peruvian citizenship in 1984. Because Peruvian law precludes foreigners from owning media outlets, Ivcher stood to lose control of the station. After several months of legal wrangling, Peruvian police entered the studio of Canal 2 on September 19 to enforce a court order upholding the Immigration Office's decision and turning over control of the station to the pro-government minority owners.

The move to oust Ivcher as owner of Channel 2 prompted widespread protest not only by journalists, but also among the Peruvian public. Many Peruvians regard the media as a bulwark against government corruption and malfeasance in a country whose legislative and judicial branches are seen as in the thrall of the president.

Peru has an extremely active press organization, the Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) in Lima, which has brought both domestic and international attention to attacks on freedom of expression in Peru.

For the Fujimori government the first step in improving its relations with the media would be the release of the journalists unfairly convicted of subversion under Peru's draconian antiterrorist laws. Four journalists are currently incarcerated, serving sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

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