Freedom of Expression

Press Release 27/00


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS), Santiago A. Canton, expresses his repudiation of the attack on journalist Fabián Salazar, a worker on the daily La República. According to information received, Salazar was tortured by persons unknown who gained entry to his office on May 24. The assailants grievously wounded the journalist’s hand with a saw, and they commandeered papers from his files and took his computer’s hard disc. The attackers then tried to set fire to his office to give the impression of an accident.

According to Mr. Salazar, over the preceding days he had received information that was "too compromising for this government," in that it spoke of ties between officials from the country’s highest electoral authority and individuals known to have connections with the intelligence services. Moreover, Mr. Salazar works with Mr. Baruch Ivcher, a Peruvian citizen who, according to the IACHR, was arbitrarily stripped of his nationality, effectively denying him control over the Canal 2 television station. The Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression urges the Peruvian authorities to take all the steps necessary to investigate, bring to trial, and punish the perpetrators of this violent attack.

In addition, the Office of the Rapporteur is extremely concerned about the constant legal pressure being brought to bear on the newspaper El Comercio, one of the country’s leading independent media outlets. The Special Rapporteur has received information about legal action taken against this daily that could seriously undermine its commercial and journalistic stability. In connection with this, the Special Rapporteur stated in his Annual Report that the main restriction on freedom of expression in Peru arose from a pattern of systematic harassment carried out by the intelligence services and the security forces, ranging from threats and defamation to actions that represented serious human rights violations. This systematic pattern is compounded by the judiciary’s passive attitude in failing to conduct serious and effective investigations of abuses and crimes committed against journalists, and by its active involvement, in that the courts are used as a means to harass and intimidate investigative journalists.

As stated in the Rapporteur’s recent Annual Report, Peru lacks the guarantees necessary for full enjoyment of the media’s right to express political ideas that oppose or criticize the government’s performance. These incidents are the latest dealt with in a long series of complaints received by the Rapporteur’s Office over the past year or more. These complaints include cases of persecution, harassment, threats, judicial hounding, defamation campaigns, violent attacks, and kidnappings, all committed against investigative journalists or opposition politicians. The scenario they paint is one in which the right of free expression is being seriously restricted. In the current circumstances, the Rapporteur’s Office believes it should point out that the right to vote is being clearly restricted through the largely biased information that Peruvian society is receiving.

Santiago A. Canton
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Washington, D.C. May 25, 2000