The SRFOE expresses its concern about risks to the right to the confidentiality of journalistic sources in Peru

May 22, 2024

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern about the opening of investigations against journalists Gustavo Gorriti and Juan Carlos Tafur in Peru that could alter guarantees inherent to journalistic work. This Office calls on the Peruvian State to respect and guarantee the right to confidentiality of sources and to resolve the proceedings against them in accordance with international standards of due process and freedom of expression.

According to public information, on March 27, 2024, the Second Transitory Supreme Prosecutor's Office specialized in crimes committed by public officials initiated preliminary proceedings against Gustavo Gorriti, journalist and director of IDL-Reporteros, for the alleged crimes of specific active bribery, specific passive bribery, influence peddling and illegal sponsorship. Said proceedings were initiated after a former advisor of the Public Prosecutor's Office made statements -as a witness and not as an effective collaborator- who pointed out that the journalist interfered in the investigations of the "Cócteles" case and influenced the management of the investigating entity.

In the framework of these investigations, the Rapporteurship learned that the provisional supreme prosecutor required the journalist to hand over the telephone numbers used between January 2016 and April 2021, and requested the lifting of the secrecy of communications.

For its part, the State provided the Office of the Special Rapporteur with a press release from the Public Prosecutor's Office, which states that there was "corroboration with official documents" through a prior inquiry. In the same press release, the Public Prosecutor's Office pointed out that revealing sources is a "voluntary act" while the lifting of the secrecy of communications "is not the will of the requested party, but a judicial resolution".

The SRFOE warns that this proceeding takes place within a context of harassment, intimidation and stigmatization directed against the media outlet IDL-Reporteros and its director. Journalist Gustavo Gorriti is the beneficiary of precautionary measures from the Commission due to threats received, allegedly related to his journalistic work and the exercise of his freedom of expression in the country.

On the other hand, there is concern about reports of a raid on the home of journalist Juan Carlos Tafur Rivera, director of the portal, on April 23, 2024. Computers, cell phones and other communication equipment of the journalist and his family members were seized during the raid. According to public information, Tafur Rivera was linked to an investigation for publishing a report that allegedly sought to discredit a senior prosecutor and participate in coordination with a person under investigation in the "Los Cuellos Blancos del Puerto" case. Through a public press release, the authorities denied that "the investigations are the result of 'revenge' against those under investigation".

This Office expresses its concern regarding the activation of investigations and preliminary proceedings against both journalists, which, according to public reports, have been initiated on the basis of uncorroborated versions and without the existence of sufficient objective elements to substantiate the commission of such crimes. Likewise, this Office points out the importance that the authorities carefully evaluate the information before announcing this type of investigations, considering the moment and the level of corroboration, in order to prevent impacts on the trust and social valuation of journalism.

In this regard, in the Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Peru, the SRFOE urged the State to "[p]romote an environment with guarantees for the freedom to denounce acts of corruption, the development of investigative journalism and the exercise of the right to seek, receive and disseminate information related to corruption. This includes, among others, guaranteeing the safety of journalists who investigate and denounce alleged acts of corruption and ensuring the protection of the confidentiality of journalistic sources.

Likewise, this Office recalls that "[e]very social communicator has the right to keep his/her source of information, notes, personal and professional archives confidential". Any measure tending to seize journalistic material that requires the disclosure of sources has the potential to generate an intimidating and restrictive effect on freedom of expression.

Therefore, the SRFOE calls upon the State of Peru, and in particular, the competent judicial authorities, to respect and guarantee the right of journalists Gorriti and Tafur to keep their sources confidential, taking into consideration that the confidentiality of these sources is an essential element in the development of journalistic work and in the role conferred to journalism by society to report on matters of public interest; as well as to resolve these proceedings according to international standards of due process and freedom of expression.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.

No. R111/24

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