Peruvian journalist Roberto Sánchez’s car was recently destroyed in an arson attack that the journalist said may be retribution for his political reporting. (Photo: Roberto Sánchez)

Peruvian journalist Roberto Sánchez’s car firebombed

Bogotá, April 19, 2020 – Peruvian authorities should thoroughly investigate the arson attack on the vehicle of journalist Roberto Sánchez Mamani, hold the perpetrators to account, and ensure that members of the press can work safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

At about 5:40 a.m. on April 14, in the southern Peruvian city of Tacna, unidentified assailants on a motorcycle threw a homemade firebomb at Sánchez’s vehicle while it was parked outside the La Estación broadcaster, where Sánchez works as news director, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a report by the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS), a local media rights group.

Sánchez told CPJ that he was hosting his morning news and opinion program at the time of the attack, and said no one was injured by the firebomb. Firefighters put out the blaze, but Sánchez said his car, a Suzuki SX4 worth about $10,000, was destroyed beyond repair.

Sánchez told CPJ that he believed the attack may have been connected to his recent political coverage, which had angered some people in Tacna.

“The firebomb attack on Peruvian journalist Roberto Sánchez’s car is not only dangerous, but clearly an attempt to intimidate the journalist,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Peruvian authorities should fully investigate the incident, bring those responsible to justice, and ensure that journalists are not targeted for their political reporting and commentary.”

Sánchez told CPJ that he had recently reported on four legislative candidates from the Tacna region who were running in Peru’s April 11 elections, and he had suggested on-air that none of the candidates had the relevant experience and that one candidate had served a 15-year prison sentence. CPJ was unable to review those broadcasts.

In response to that reporting and commentary, Sánchez said he received three or four angry phone calls from people who did not identify themselves and who warned him to stop reporting on the candidates, none of whom won their races on April 11.

“These candidates did really badly and didn’t receive many votes,” Sánchez told CPJ. “Then came the attack. That’s why I think it was a kind of political revenge for the work that we had been doing.”

Sánchez said he had reported the attack to the police, who launched an investigation. CPJ called the police headquarters in Tacna, but no one answered.