Freedom of Expression

Press Release 151/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern over Measures Forcing Journalists in Peru to reveal their sources and materials


July 12th, 2018 


Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern regarding requests made by the public prosecutor's office and the Peruvian Congress that threaten right of journalists to maintain the confidentiality of their sources in the context of journalistic investigations that would reveal acts of corruption within the Judiciary and the National Magistrates Council.


According to the information received, the journalists Gustavo Andrés Gorriti Ellenbogen, director of the Legal Defense Institute (IDL-Reporteros), and Rossana Cueva Mejía, director of the TV program "Panorama", were summoned to an Extraordinary Session in the Congress of the Republic of Peru, on July 12, convened by the Oversight and Control Commission, which will address "Reports in relation to telephone interceptions mad[e]". The purpose of the measure is to "inform the form and circumstances by which was obtained the audios and/or documentation in relation to the telephone interceptions". In addition, the document requires them to "deliver to this commission the audios and/or original documentation that supported the aforementioned report."


These media outlets released earlier this week a series of audios in which representatives of the National Magistrates Council are reportedly involved in an alleged influence peddling.


On Monday, October 10, the anti-corruption prosecutor's office opened investigations into the alleged irregularities denounced by the media. According to the information available, the prosecutor reportedly ordered the exhibition of documents by the IDL-Reporters in order to get access to their work materials and documents. The measure was later suspended. After an urgent alert issued by civil society organizations, the public prosecutor's office issued a press release saying that "The Attorney General, Pablo Sánchez Verlarde, reiterates his respect for press freedom and states that during his entire professional and personal career he has been a firm defender of the democratic values of our society. "


The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its concern about the situation of these journalists, and recalls that any measure tending to seize journalistic material, which requires revealing sources or citing journalists as witnesses has a restrictive effect on freedom of expression. Pursuant to Principle 8 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, "all social communicators have the right to reserve their sources of information, notes and personal and professional files."


Joel Hernández, Commissioner and Rapporteur of the IACHR for Peru, said that "investigations into acts of corruption should not affect journalists who, in the exercise of their profession, helped society to know the facts that merited those same investigations."


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, Edison Lanza, recalled that "the confidentiality of sources is an essential element of the work of a journalist and of the role that society has conferred on journalists to report on matters of public interest."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur recalls that the importance of the right to confidentiality of sources lies in the fact that, in order to provide the public with information necessary to satisfy their right to receive information, journalists perform an important service to the public when they collect and disseminate information that it would not be disclosed if the reserve of the sources was not protected.


The IACHR recalls that in Resolution IACHR 1/18 of March 2, 2018, on "Corruption and Human Rights", it recognizes the important role of citizen control that journalists and the media in the investigation and denunciation of corruption, recommending "Foster a climate of guarantees for the freedom to report acts of corruption, the development of the practice of investigative journalism and the exercise of the right to seek, receive and impart information related to corruption. This includes guaranteeing the safety of journalists, human rights defenders and activists who investigate and report corruption; repealing so-called "contempt" and criminal defamation laws while ensuring the proportionality of penalties in civil proceedings; ensuring protection for the confidentiality of journalistic sources; and establishing protection systems for corruption whistleblowers".


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.