Assailants try to cut out Peruvian journalist’s tongue

New York, February 8, 2017–Peruvian authorities should swiftly bring to justice all those responsible for a brutal attack against broadcast journalist Marco Bonifacio Sánchez, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Unidentified assailants tried to cut off the journalist’s tongue as he walked home in the northern Peruvian town of Cajamarca late in the night of February 3, colleagues and friends told CPJ.

Bonifacio, the host of the radio and television program “El Canillita,” broadcast on Turbo Mix Radio y Televisión, is in hospital with injuries to his mouth, according to press reports and Bonifacio’s friends and colleagues. A close friend of Bonifacio’s, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told CPJ that the journalist was walking home with a group of friends when unidentified assailants beat him and attempted to cut out his tongue. Bonifacio’s friend, who has visited him in the hospital, told CPJ that the journalist’s injuries to his mouth made it difficult for him to speak on the phone.

“Peruvian authorities should swiftly bring to justice all those responsible for the horrific attack against Marco Bonifacio Sánchez,” Carlos Lauría, senior coordinator for the Americas program at CPJ, said. “Impunity in cases of attacks against the journalists undermines the Peruvian news media’s ability to report the news freely.”

Bonifacio’s friend told CPJ that the journalist had been attacked on at least four previous occasions, stretching back at least three years, and that she believed the attacks were related to his work as a journalist.

CPJ’s calls to the police station in Cajamarca were not answered.

Bonifacio often interviewed residents about problems they faced–such as difficulty in accessing medicine or government services–and would try to help solve those problems, according to colleagues at the radio station. He was known for his confrontational style and criticism of local authorities and institutions, Ronal Tiper, the press director of Grupo Turbo Mix, told CPJ.

Tiper said the journalist had been threatened many times over the years. He said Bonifacio received a threatening letter roughly 18 months before the attack, without elaborating on the contents, but told CPJ that he could not remember any more recent threat.

Bonifacio also ran for mayor of Cajamarca in 2014, according to colleagues and press reports at the time.