Recent inflammatory statements by public officials attacking Peru’s independent media is the latest example of the ongoing, frequent harassment and criminalization experienced by journalists and human rights defenders in Peru. As documented by the Committee to Protect Journalists, investigative journalist Gustavo Gorriti and his news website, IDL-Reporteros, reported receiving multiple threats after a sitting Member of Congress and a former minister blamed the news media, and Gorriti specifically, for the April 17 suicide of ex-president Alan García. According to a coalition of human rights groups, this lambasting of independent journalism is symptomatic of the Peruvian government’s broader failure to uphold and protect the vital work of journalists and human rights defenders.
“Government officials should be enabling the critical work of Peru’s journalists and human rights defenders, not attacking them or calling them killers,” said Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt.
Reporting by Gorriti and IDL-Reporteros has played an instrumental role in revealing some of Peru’s biggest ongoing corruption scandals, including those involving García. As a result of this reporting, IDL-Reporteros has suffered attacks and judicial harassment, prompting the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to speak out last year against the curtailing of press freedoms in Peru.
“To investigate and expose corruption is an act of courage and an essential role of a free press. The harassment and intimidation of reporters and those defending human rights by judicial and governmental officials is a growing threat in Peru today,” said Viviana Krsticevic of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL).
Similarly to IDL-Reporteros, various media outlets and human rights defenders have recently experienced systemic campaigns of judicial harassment in Peru. According to Peruvian human rights organization the National Human Rights Coordination Group, several legal and constitutional reforms have made it easier for activists to end up in court on trumped-up charges, such as “disturbing the peace” during protests. As of 2017, more than 800 defenders were reportedly facing criminal proceedings. Similarly, Peru’s national journalists’ association has noted that judicial harassment has surpassed physical violence as the biggest threat facing reporters. For example, journalists Paula Ugaz and Pedro Salinas faced defamation charges for their journalistic on the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae sexual abuse scandal. Charges against them were recently dropped.
“Peruvian authorities need to stop using inflammatory rhetoric and exploiting the courts in order to intimidate the defenders of the country’s democracy,” said Katya Salazar of the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF). “Journalists and human rights defenders should be celebrated and protected, not terrorized into staying silent.”