Journalists back director of Peruvian investigative site IDL-Reporteros in face of disinformation campaign

  • By Jacqueline Fowks
  • February 12, 2024

*This story was originally published by IDL-Reporteros and has been republished here with permission.

Faced with a campaign undertaken by the two political sectors most linked to serious cases of corruption in recent Peruvian history, in complicity with the media machinery of other people who’ve been investigated, a group of personalities, journalists and citizens issued a statement rejecting what it considers a new attempt to “hinder the start of the oral trial for money laundering and criminal organization of the leader” of political party Fuerza Popular, Keiko Fujimori.

Gustavo Gorriti speaking

Gustavo Gorriti (Knight Center)

Through a written statement, the signatories expressed their support for Gustavo Gorriti, director of investigative journalism news site IDL-Reporteros, who is the focal point of the disinformation campaign that, in the style of the psychosocial operations of the Fujimori-Montesino regime in the 90s, aims to confuse public opinion by attributing to him supposed powers over the public prosecutor’s office.

“We support the investigative journalist with the longest career in Peru, we stand in solidarity with him, and we firmly repudiate the wrongs against him,” indicates the document signed on Friday [Feb. 9] by a large group of citizens. The text was a response to the escalation of attacks by politicians investigated for corruption or money laundering, such as the leader of Fuerza Popular, Keiko Fujimori; the former APRA congressman and lawyer of Patricia Benavides, Jorge del Castillo; and the leader of Renovación Popular, Rafael López Aliaga, current mayor of Lima.

These last two characters, like Keiko Fujimori, are part of investigations for money laundering. Del Castillo is investigated by the Lava Jato Special Team for the contributions that Odebrecht made to Alan García's presidential campaign in 2006. For his part, López Aliaga is investigated for being a member of an alleged criminal organization involved in money laundering.

The list of support includes the signatures of 80 practicing journalists and photographers, and is headed by the prominent former investigative journalist for the newspaper La República, Edmundo Cruz; columnist and lawyer Rosa María Palacios; director for Latin America of the press freedom defense organization Reporters Without Borders, Artur Romeu; and journalist and writer Renato Cisneros.

Journalists from the newspaper La República and its director, Gustavo Mohme, and from OjoPúblico, Epicentro, the weekly Hildebrandt en los trece, Salud con Lupa, El Búho (Arequipa), Convoca.pe, Infopaís (Ayacucho), among others, have also joined the statement. In addition, it has been signed by Zuliana Lainez, general secretary of the National Association of Journalists and vice president of the International Federation of Journalists.

The statement specifically establishes a position about the machinery of media operators deployed as part of the disinformation operation, especially through Willax, the television channel of businessman Erasmo Wong, who is being investigated for money laundering, whose management of interests has been documented by IDL-Reporteros at different times, such as in the 'Brujas de Cachiche' case, which revealed the efforts to organize an illicit eviction operation in his favor at the Andahuasi sugar factory.

“As in previous hoaxes broadcast on that channel, the program hosts and their guests demanded that the prosecutor's office investigate the journalist [Gorriti] and attributed alleged power in that state body to him. Since 2018, the director of IDL-Reporteros has faced continuous attacks from a small number of media which misinform, politicians linked to cases of corruption and money laundering, and far-right vandals linked to leaders of [political parties] Fuerza Popular and Renovación Popular who are investigated by the public prosecutor,” the statement says.

The new psychosocial strategy began this week, when Willax released selected parts – and hid others – of the statement of the former advisor of suspended prosecutor Patricia Benavides, Jaime Villanueva, to prosecutor Reynaldo Abia, who belongs to the office of the supreme prosecutor investigating Benavides.

In that statement, mixed with statements about different characters, the former public prosecutor’s office official has given false information about Gustavo Gorriti in relation to the two most notable prosecutors of the Lava Jato Special Team in Peru. For example, he suggests that a prosecutor provided significant information to the journalist in exchange for alleged compensation.

The statement in solidarity with Gorriti highlights that in 2011, IDL-Reporteros began to report the irregular activities of the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in Peru; that in 2014 it reported on the link between Odebrecht and the secretary of the presidency of García's second government, and that it has also revealed the corruption plots of said transnational aligned with political power in other Latin American countries.

“IDL-Reporteros obtained documentation about Odebrecht's activities with Keiko Fujimori and Alan García because since 2015 it has extensively and diligently investigated the Lava Jato case, through alliances with Latin American journalists and sources of information in several countries, not only in Brazil. For example, in June 2017, IDL-Reporteros published the record of Marcelo Odebrecht's agenda on 'increasing Keiko 500' (from the 2011 electoral campaign), before said document reached –through international cooperation– the office of the Special Team for Lava Jato Prosecutors,” the statement says.

In 2023, Wong's TV channel has attempted to tear down the director of IDL-Reporteros through disinformation operations, however, these have been "crude" and were timely denied, the statement recalls.

In addition to the support of journalists from different media and representatives of press associations, the document in solidarity with Gorriti has received more than 110 endorsements from civil society organizations and academia.

At the top of that list are the historian José Carlos Agüero, historian and sociologist Nelson Manrique, former supreme prosecutor Avelino Guillén, cartoonist Juan Acevedo, lawyer specializing in human rights, Gloria Cano; and environmental lawyer and former prime minister Mirtha Vásquez.

Personalities from the worlds of culture, social sciences and human rights have also signed, such as historians Cecilia Méndez and José Luis Renique; internationalist Farid Kahhat, economist Óscar Ugarteche; former president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR, for its acronym in Spanish), Salomón Lerner; executive secretary of the National Human Rights Coordinator, Jennie Dador; executive director of Promsex, Susana Chávez; lawyer and former anti-corruption attorney Ronald Gamarra, and Ayacucho anthropologist José Coronel.

Likewise, former CVR commissioners Rolando Ames and Sofía Macher sign the statement of support; as well as economist and university professor Pedro Francke, researcher and former minister José de Echave; university professors and feminist activists María Emma Mannarelli, Rocío Silva Santisteban, and Victoria Guerrero.

Novelists Rafael Dumett, Santiago Roncagliolo and Peter Elmore added their names as did the director of Yuyachkani, Miguel Rubio; playwrights Celeste Viale and Mateo Chiarella, and the National Network of Arts and Culture Workers-Lima. Around 250 other citizens signed the statement individually.

The 475 signatories state that “supporting Gorriti's career and the media outlet he directs means affirming the anti-corruption principles that must prevail in such a critical context in Peru, in which there are no longer sufficient counterweights or institutions to defend legality and rule of law.”

Between the night of Saturday, Feb. 10, and Monday, Feb. 12, other Peruvian journalists signed the statement, including Carlos Chunga, Gaby García, Pamela Huerta, Yvette Sierra, Ramiro Escobar, Amanda Meza and Melissa Goytizolo, and the independent digital media outlet Huanca York Times. Additional signatures came from anthropologists Carmen Ilizarbe and María Eugenia Ulfe, historian Paulo Drinot, internationalist Óscar Vidarte, and the jurist and former public attorney Luis Alberto Salgado. Other new signatories are Roberto Pérez Rocha, director of the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized annually by Transparency International; and Michael Shifter, founder and former president of Inter-American Dialogue.

Additionally, investigative journalists from at least ten Latin American countries and leaders of international journalism networks have rejected the campaign of disinformation and attacks against the director of IDL-Reporteros, Gustavo Gorriti, and describe it as an attack on freedom of expression and a risk to democracy. In addition to signing a manifesto of solidarity, they have highlighted Gorriti's contribution to the fight against corruption in the region, with his investigations and as a reference for several generations of journalists.

Translated by Teresa Mioli