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Peru's Congress secretly investigated phone calls of journalists who alleged corruption

The Peruvian Congress investigated telephone calls made by a group of journalists in 2008 who alleged corruption by several government officials, including President Alan García, reported the newspaper La República. The Luízar Commission, created to investigate possible wiretapping related to the case, secretly requested the journalists' telephone records from phone companies to investigate the sources that backed the newspaper's allegations, said the Press and Society Institute (IPYS in Spanish).

La República maintains that journalists Fernando Rospigliosi, Pable O'Brien, Laura Puertas and Fernando Ampuero, along with their legal adviser José Ugaz, "went from being the investigators to the investigated." In the case known as "petro-audio," the journalists uncovered pressure and influence over petroleum bids in Peru in October 2008, which led to the fall of García's cabinet.

Ex-Representative Walter Menchola Vásquez, member of the Luízar Commission, promised that the inquiries into the journalists, the violation of their privacy and private conversations were all conducted legally. "Journalists are not innocent angels or cherubs; if they were, there wouldn't be so many trials for defamation, libel and other such crimes," he told La República.

Rospigliosi said that the investigation into his phone calls between 2006 and 2008 was "unjustified and arbitrary," Correo reported. "This is an attack on privacy and against the privacy of my sources," he insisted.

Representative Mauricio Mulder said that the Luízar Commission will have to answer for the criteria used to invade the journalists' privacy, according to the newspaper La Primera.

In the aftermath of the case, the Supreme Court of Peru proposed prison sentences for those who publish private communications obtained by illegal wiretapping.

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