Freedom of Expression

Press Release 21/00


At the request of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the Commission), during the current period of sessions, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Mr. Santiago A. Canton, informed the Commission about the serious situation regarding the freedom of expression in Peru.

The Rapporteur informed the Commission about a large number of claims regarding violations of the right of freedom of expression. The analysis of these claims leads the Rapporteur to conclude that the effective exercise of free expression in Peru is seriously compromised due to the systematic use of intelligence services and security forces as instruments of harassment and persecution of investigative journalists and political opposition leaders. In addition to the abusive activities of the intelligence services, the failure of political authorities to recognize the problem should be noted. "These actions and omissions by the Peruvian State represent the fundamental pillars that sustain the current scheme of harassment and persecution of freedom of expression in Peru," the Rapporteur stated.

The Rapporteur is particularly concerned about the effect these restrictions will have on the current electoral process. The importance of respect for freedom of expression and information becomes extremely critical in times when citizens need information to elect the individuals who will be responsible for governing them. The State must guarantee, without discrimination, the right to transmit and receive information in order to allow the full exercise of the political rights of all citizens to participate in the electoral process, either as candidates or voters.

The Rapporteur informed the Commission about incidents that involved tailing journalists and politicians; intercepting phone calls; conducting smear campaigns against media and individuals who had expressed opinions critical of authorities in office; using judicial powers to silence radio and television programs with critical content; and pressuring media owners to avoid broadcasting unfavorable programming, as well as many cases involving threats to and attacks on journalists and politicians.

According to the Rapporteur, "Peru lacks the necessary conditions to guarantee the complete exercise of the right to express political ideas that oppose or criticize the government through the mass media." The Rapporteur considers that the limitation to the right of freedom of expression in Peru "represents a serious obstacle for the normal development of the electoral process."

The Commission received the report and expressed its deep concern for the integrity of the current electoral process considering the limited nature of freedom of expression in Peru.

Washington, D.C. March 8, 2000