Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Peru’s media freedom declined in 2007 amid a series of threats and physical attacks against media workers, an atmosphere of impunity, and the government’s closure of several local radio and television stations—reportedly in retaliation for critical coverage. 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 2002 and 2003, the government of President Alejandro Toledo passed laws expanding access to public information. The willingness of many agencies to provide information has grown, despite a July 2005 measure that tightened restrictions on access to information in certain categories and extended the timelines for release of classified information. Desacato (disrespect) laws continued to be a problem, with a number of journalists entangled in court cases in 2007 and charged with defamation by public officials and private citizens. Reporters were sentenced to prison in six cases, though the sentences were either suspended or remained under appeal at year’s end. Controversy also ensued on several occasions when local radio and television stations were closed. In April, three radio and three television stations were closed in Chimbote, while a radio station in Pisco was closed in September. In each case the government claimed that licenses were missing or expired, while critics noted that in each case the stations had recently been critical of government actions.
In addition to legal difficulties, the hostile climate for the press is evidenced by numerous instances of physical attacks and verbal threats. Local press watchdog Instituto de Prensa y Sociedad dramatically increased the number of alerts it issued, from 96 in 2006 to 121 in 2007. The majority of these violations came in the form of physical aggression (38 percent) and death threats (23 percent). Journalists working in the country’s interior provinces are especially vulnerable, as are reporters covering crime stories, scandals, and corruption. In March, Cajamarca journalist Miguel Perez Julca was murdered. Although he had made several corruption accusations on his radio show and several suspects were arrested, other reporters alleged that the real reason for his murder was his announcement that he was going to name corrupt policemen. Journalists in Loreto, San Martin, and Ancash also faced assassination attempts. Attempts by the media to cover protests also resulted in violence against journalists, especially those involving coca growers. Remnants of the Shining Path rebel group, now associated with cocaine production, published a list of threatened journalists in December in Huanuco.
Most cases of violence or harassment of journalists by public officials and private citizens continued to go unpunished. However, on a positive note, in May President Alan Garcia signed the Inter American Press Association–sponsored Declaration of Chapultepec, which commits the government to action against impunity. Several individuals were sentenced on November 14 for the 2004 murder of radio journalist Alberto Rivera Fernandez in the city of Pucallpa, but the former Pucallpa mayor viewed as the intellectual author was cleared, leading to the opening of an investigation of the judges who acquitted him. In a separate case, two men were finally convicted and sentenced for the 1988 killing of reporter Hugo Bustios Saavedra.
Peru’s media are diverse and express a broad range of viewpoints. Private investors dominate the media industry, and in comparison, the audience for state-run media is relatively small. However, 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. The media corruption that was endemic in the Alberto Fujimori era continues to an extent today, with both owners and individual journalists occasionally accepting bribes in exchange for slanted coverage. One government minister was accused of trying to buy favorable coverage in several print outlets. These activities contribute to a long-standing lack of confidence in the press as a credible institution. National newspapers are also dependent on advertising revenue from a small number of large companies. The internet is open and unrestricted by the government, with over 25 percent of the population accessing the web in 2007.