Peruvian journalist attacked after reporting on corruption

New York, November 7, 2011–A Peruvian provincial reporter was shot and wounded on Saturday while resisting an attempted kidnapping that his colleagues believe may have been in reprisal for his coverage of police corruption, news reports said. 

Feliciano Gutiérrez Suca, a veteran correspondent for the Lima-based daily La República in the southern region of Puno, was assaulted by four unidentified assailants who tried to force him into a car parked a half-block from his home in the town of Juliaca. The journalist resisted the kidnapping and was shot twice in the leg in the ensuing struggle, news reports said. Though badly injured, Gutiérrez tried to chase after his attackers, who fled in a car after stealing his cell phone, camera, and money.

“The assault of Feliciano Gutiérrez Suca is part of a pattern of attacks against provincial journalists in Peru,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior Americas program coordinator. “Since Gutiérrez’s colleagues believe the attack might have been a result of his reporting on police corruption, we urge authorities to investigate this case thoroughly.”

Juan Carlos Soto, the regional editor for La República, told CPJ that police investigators learned from witnesses that the car involved in the attack had recently been seen circling Gutiérrez’s neighborhood.

Liubomir Fernández, another La República reporter, and Soto both said the attack may be connected to stories Gutiérrez wrote in early October about links between police officers–one of whom he named–and smugglers who bring contraband goods, including drugs, across Puno’s border with Bolivia. Gutiérrez’s report, which detailed how police officers were pressuring smugglers for extortion payments, led to the arrest of one of the officers, Fernández said.

Fernández said Gutiérrez was listed as being in stable condition in a hospital in Juliaca, and said he will likely be recovering for at least a month.

The Lima-based Institute of Press and Society said Gutiérrez had not received threats prior to the attack, but that another Puno-based journalist, Hugo Sucacahua of Panamericana TV, received threatening phone calls after reporting on Gutiérrez’s investigation.

Provincial journalists have been repeatedly targeted this year in Peru. Television journalist Pedro Alfonso Flores Silva was gunned down on September 8 in reprisal for his critical reporting, CPJ research shows. José Oquendo Reyes was shot to death on September 14. In May, radio host Julio Castillo Narváez was gunned down while having lunch in the city of Virú. CPJ research shows that at least six journalists have been killed in direct reprisal for their work since 1992.