Freedom of the Press 2011 - Peru
|Publication Date||10 October 2011|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2011 - Peru, 10 October 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e92aefc1a.html [accessed 11 July 2014]|
Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 14
Political Environment: 18
Economic Environment: 11
Total Score: 43
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the 1993 constitution, but local and international media organizations continued to express concern about the harassment of reporters by both state and nonstate actors in 2010.
Politicians frequently react to criticism, particularly corruption allegations, by suing journalists, press outlets, and activists. Right-of-reply requirements are a contentious subject among journalists and lawmakers, as are privacy issues. In December 2010 the Constitutional Court restricted the dissemination of recorded telephone conversations. The ruling followed multiple incidents in 2009 and 2010 in which surreptitiously recorded conversations created scandal after being broadcasted on two different media outlets. Press watchdogs viewed the ruling as overly broad and a potential obstacle to coverage of subjects in the public interest. In June, a congressional commission passed a bill that would have criminalized the dissemination of pornographic content, but the bill was subsequently shelved. Defamation remains a criminal offense that can result in imprisonment, though journalists are rarely incarcerated for it. Nonetheless, 2010 was a busy year for defamation cases against journalists. Editor Alejandro Carrascal was convicted of defamation in January and sentenced to one year in prison, but a Supreme Court decision in June overruled this case and he was released. Journalist Oswaldo Pereyra was sentenced to one year's detention in June, but was released in July. Reporter Fernando Santo Rojas was also convicted of defamation and received a one-year suspended sentence in August.
Laws expanding access to public information were enacted in 2002 and 2003, and the willingness of many government agencies to provide information has grown. However, adherence to transparency norms remains inconsistent, particularly at the regional and local levels. There is no independent media regulatory body, and under the 2004 Radio and Television Law, broadcast licensing is the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. In June 2009 the government rescinded the broadcast permit of Radio La Voz de Bagua. Technical reasons were cited, but officials also claimed that the station had instigated violence during its coverage of indigenous protests. Both the station and press watchdog groups complained of censorship and arbitrary application of the law. The station's license was restored in August 2010.
The hostile climate for the press is evidenced by numerous instances of physical attacks and verbal threats against media workers by local authorities, private actors, and the police. Topics like corruption, misuse of state resources, and drug trafficking are considered particularly dangerous to cover. No journalists were killed in 2010, but dozens were subject to threats, intimidation, and assaults. Most of the several dozen episodes of assault in 2010 occurred at the local level, especially during campaigning for regional and local elections in October. In many cases of assault, the accused perpetrators were supporters of local politicians. In February, a Lima judge was captured in a photo pointing a gun at a photojournalist for the national newsweekly Caretas. In October, radio journalist Marco Bonifacio Sánchez's home in Cajamarca was burglarized. Sánchez, who had recently been convicted of libeling the mayor of Cajamarca, claimed the burglars were looking for documents and videos relating to his investigations of corruption in the local police force. Also in October, two National Police officers in the district of Túcume chased and assaulted Ana María Yesquén, a correspondent for Radio Programas del Perú, after she photographed them attacking another local journalist and damaging his equipment. High levels of social conflict sometimes create tension between the government and press outlets. There were also several cases linked to social conflict in which nonstate actors were accused of abuse of journalists, including an October incident in Cuzco in which a group of locals forced their way into Radio Espinar's facilities, violently attacked director Antonio Mollehuanca, and forced him to drink sewer water.
Impunity remained a problem during the year, as most cases of violence or harassment of journalists by public officials and private citizens went unpunished. In the most symbolic ongoing case, Luis Valdez, accused of masterminding the murder of radio journalist Alberto Rivera in 2004, was acquitted of the charges in February; appeals continued throughout the rest of the year. One positive development in November 2010 was the creation of a special jurisdiction within the judiciary to hear cases involving serious crimes against journalists. The move fulfilled promises made by President Alan Garcia and the head of the judiciary during an Inter-American Press Association visit to the country in May.
The government owns two television networks and one radio station, and operates the print news agency Andina. However, private outlets dominate the media industry, and the audience for state-run media is relatively small. In December 2009, President Alan Garcia's controversial pardon of former television station owner Jose E. Crousillat stirred speculation that the government was seeking to exert influence over broadcast media ownership. The pardon was subsequently revoked, but he remained at large throughout 2010. Radio is an important news medium, especially in the countryside, and many of the incidents of harassment, intimidation, and censorship by media owners are related to coverage of local issues on the radio. Several radio shows were canceled in 2010 after criticizing local authorities. The media corruption that was endemic during Alberto Fujimori's presidency in the 1990s continues to some extent, with journalists occasionally accepting bribes in exchange for slanted coverage, and owners using media outlets to promote their broader business interests.
The internet is not restricted by the government, and about 34 percent of the population has access. However, in October 2010, blogger Jose Alejandro Godoy was found guilty of defaming litigious businessman Jorge Mufarech, marking the first time a Peruvian blogger was convicted of defamation. Godoy received a three-year suspended in sentence along with a large fine that, upon payment, would convert the sentence to probation. At year's end the case was under appeal.