Death threats force Peruvian journalist to flee the country

New York, April 13, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by death threats made against Peruvian journalist Marilú Gambini Lostanau and her family after she reported on the influence of drug traffickers in Peruvian politics. The threats forced the journalist and two of her children to leave the country last week.

An unidentified woman called Gambini, host of the weekly program “Confidencial” on Canal 31 television in the northeastern city of Chimbote, and warned her to stop her commentary within a week, the journalist told CPJ today. In the March 28 call, the woman also threatened to harm Gambini’s young children. The next day, an unknown woman threatened Gambini’s older daughter and granddaughter at a marketplace in Chimbote. The journalist said she received daily calls on her cell phone counting down the days that she had left to live.

On April 2, Gambini said, she and her family left Chimbote and reported the threats to authorities in Lima. On April 5, Gambini fled Peru with her two youngest children. She asked that her current location not be disclosed for safety reasons. Gambini said she has gotten no word that Peruvian authorities are investigating the threats.

Gambini told CPJ that she believes the threats are related to her persistent reporting on the political activities of drug traffickers, including their recent campaign donations. The journalist said Peruvian government members and politicians were being manipulated by organized crime members.

“We’re shocked by these repulsive acts of intimidation against Gambini and her family,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We urge Peruvian authorities to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation, bring those responsible to justice, and provide the necessary protection to allow Gambini to return to Peru and resume her work.”

Gambini, who has reported on drug and arms trafficking in northern Peru over the last 10 years, told CPJ that she has been threatened and attacked in the past. The local press freedom organization Instituto Prensa y Sociedad reported in March 2005 that two unidentified people entered Gambini’s home, pushed her against a wall, and stole documents related to a drug trafficking investigation. In May of the same year, Gambini’s home was burglarized and several videotapes stolen. The journalist said she has received numerous threatening phone calls as well.