Peru | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Peru

Peru

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

39

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

17

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

11

Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the 1993 constitution, but local and international media organizations continued to express concern about the state of press freedom in Peru. In 2002, the government of President Alejandro Toledo passed a Freedom of Information Law, and in 2003, this legislation was consolidated into the Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information. However, in July 2005, the Congress passed a new National Intelligence Law that tightened restrictions on access to information in certain categories and extended the timelines for release of classified information. Desacato (disrespect) laws continue to be a problem in Peru. A number of journalists were entangled in court cases, charged with defamation by public officials and private citizens. One notable case was that of two freelance journalists from the United States and the United Kingdom who were charged with criminal defamation for a single-sentence reference to an alleged drug trafficker, Francisco Zevallos. The court found in favor of the plaintiff, ordering fines and probation for the journalists; a higher court reversed the decision, but a final ruling was pending at year's end. In another high-profile case, Zevallos threatened journalists from the Lima-based daily newspaper, El Comercio, with multimillion-dollar legal suits and criminal complaints, but in June a Lima judge acquitted the publisher. In a case that set an unwelcome precedent, a superior court upheld a lower court decision that barred a radio journalist from Madre de Dios from working for a year because he did not belong to the legally mandated professional association or hold a college degree. The journalist, who was also convicted of libel and received a two-year jail sentence, reported regularly on cases of local government corruption.

In addition to judicial harassment, the hostile climate for the press is evidenced by numerous instances of physical attack and verbal threats. Journalists working in the country's interior provinces are especially vulnerable. Reporters covering crime stories and scandals were targeted with intimidation and threats, largely after reporting on corruption. In March, Jose Antonio Simons, director of El Huinsho magazine, was attacked by local government officials, including the mayor in the Alto Amazonas province in Loreto. During the incident, officials confiscated a videotape Simons had made of a meeting between government officials and a public prosecutor. Public officials were not the only actors targeting journalists; protesters and individuals accused of wrongdoing were also implicated in attacks and harassment. This is a significant change from the climate of primarily government-sponsored harassment that dominated the Alberto Fujimori era. There were a number of incidents in which journalists also came under attack in the course of covering protests.

Although most of the abuses of journalists by public officials and private citizens go unpunished, at least some progress was made in two important cases. A superior court found the former mayor of Yungay, Amaro Leon, guilty of ordering the 2004 assassination of Antonio de la Torre. De la Torre, a radio journalist, was a harsh critic of the mayor. The ex-mayor was sentenced to 17 years in prison and a US$6,000 fine. Perpetrators of the 2004 murder of radio journalist Alberto Rivera in the city of Pulcallpa were apprehended and made confessions that implicated the mayor and a former judge as masterminds of the plot.

Private investors dominate the media industry, and in comparison the audience for state-run media is relatively small. The government owns two television networks and one radio station and operates the print news agency Andina. Radio is an important medium, especially in the countryside. Peru's media are diverse and express a broad range of viewpoints. The media corruption that was endemic in the Fujimori era continues to an extent today, contributing to a long-standing lack of confidence in the press as a credible institution. The internet is open and unrestricted by the government, with approximately 4.57 million users in 2005.