Freedom of Expression

Press Release R41/11





Washington, D.C., May 6, 2011—The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist Julio Castillo Narváez, which took place May 3 in Virú, department of La Libertad, Peru, and recognizes the immediate intervention by the police to identify and try to capture the criminals. The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the Peruvian State to conduct a diligent, thorough investigation which specifically looks into the threats the journalist had received recently and which enables the capture, prosecution and punishment of both the direct perpetrators and masterminds of the crime, as well as adequate reparations for the victim's family.


According to the information that has been received, the journalist was having lunch in a restaurant when several men pretending to be customers entered the place and shot at him. The victim's cell phone was found at the scene and reportedly contained a stored message with a death threat. The police announced that at least one of the alleged perpetrators of the shooting has already been identified and is expected to be captured soon.


According to the information available, Julio Castillo Narváez had been working in journalism for more than 20 years; he was the host of the radio program "Noticiero Ollantay" and was regularly critical of local authorities in La Libertad. The Ollantay radio station reportedly confirmed to Peruvian media outlets that the journalist had received constant death threats since March, when he aired an audio report implicating public officials from La Libertad in possible irregularities.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it essential that the State explore lines of investigation that take into account a possible link between the crime and the victim’s professional activities, in light of the claims that the journalist had made on his program. Furthermore, as an element of the obligation to punish with which the State must comply, it is essential that all perpetrators and masterminds be swiftly identified, captured and prosecuted, in order to provide justice to the journalist and his relatives and to prevent the repetition of such attacks. Violence against media workers not only affects the victim and his or her next of kin but also society as a whole, as such violence constitutes an attack on the right to freedom of expression.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the State that Principle 9 of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."