Peruvian journalism site seeks to reach new audiences with print editions of its most prominent investigative reports

At a time when most journalism is moving from print to digital, Peruvian investigative journalism site Ojo Público is doing the opposite. At least partly.

With its latest project, El Tercer Ojo, the journalists are transferring their notable digital reports on the transnational pharmaceutical industry and trafficking of cultural heritage into a series of print editions, with digital version, they hope will reach new audiences.

A series of bilingual, themed, short-run newspapers published under the masthead “Times” is the first installment of the Tercer Ojo project. With these print and digital editions, the site aims to focus on a particular topic and reintroduce serious problems and transcentral histories that affected and continue to affect Peru. In many cases, they are issues which the traditional press has forgotten or has not given due importance, said David Hidalgo, news director for Ojo Público.

This is how Llakiy Times (Times of Grief, from Quechua and English), a newspaper against impunity that deals with human rights issues in Peruvian society, was recently born. Through single paragraph micro-narratives and graphic reports by renowned Peruvian photographers, this first edition presents the principle cases of enforced disappearances and human rights violations in Peru carried out by the Sendero Luminoso terrorist group and the military during the 80s and 90s.

"We want to reach both readers dissatisfied with the traditional press, but also people who do not have assured access to the Internet at all times, due to the digital divide in the country," Hidalgo told the Knight Center.

Among the most important cases highlighted by the Llakiy Times is that of La Cantuta, the killing of nine students and a teacher who were tortured, murdered and whose body parts were buried outside Lima by the paramilitary group Colina. This death squad was created during the first government of President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) to mitigate the terrorist actions that scourged the country at that time.

The visual treatment of the subjects presented in Llakiy Times also breaks with the proposal of traditional newspapers, creating a story through photos rather than merely using visuals to accompany an article. The renowned Peruvian photographer Musuk Nolte was in charge of the photographic edition. Leslie Searles, another Peruvian photographer who participated in the edition with her work on the massacre in Soras, Ayacucho, commented that it was interesting to have the opportunity to show these important stories in print, giving space to the images as well. "Something that local traditional newspapers no longer do," she told the Knight Center.

Max Cabello, another participant photographer, said it was engaging to be part of this project and to share images that are records of grievances, of subjects of public interest. According to Cabello, for many journalists these issues are part of the past, they do not talk about them, and “there are political, institutional forces, which are not interested in talking about this. At the very least, they are interested in saying it in a low voice.”

A professor at Yale University has already said he will use the publication as part of his coursework. Peruvian José Ragas, doctor in History, told the Knight Center that he plans to incorporate the material in his course “Global Histories of Identification and Surveillance,” which discusses political violence, genocide and identification with students from various fields.

"We intend to read the text of Fabiola Torres, taking advantage of the fact that it is also in English, to explain the strategies of identification of victims of violence and the advances in forensic medicine and DNA," said Ragas, who emphasized the investigative quality of the Llakiy Times.

According to Hidalgo, the print version of the Llakiy Times will be distributed free of charge to universities, through civil society organizations and their members, especially those working in communities in different regions of the country, with victims of human rights abuses that tend to live in difficult environments and with little or no Internet access.

In Peru, poor residents in rural areas, especially farmers, were the main victims of the terrorist and state violence that the country experienced during the 1980s and 1990s. Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which analyzed what happened in the country during those decades, published in its final report that more than 35 percent of the victims of lethal violence, not counting the disappeared, were located in the poorest departments of the Peruvian sierra.

"In this case, it is a matter of promoting memory in different parts of the country," Hidalgo added, also referring to the lack of access most Peruvians still have to digital information.

Although its number of Internet users is increasing, Peru is still one of the Latin American countries with the lowest number of users, surpassing only Bolivia. Just over half of the national population has access to the Internet, having greater access in the cities than in rural areas of the country, El Comercio reported.

So far, according to Hidalgo, they plan to make six issues of this thematic series. The forthcoming edition is Hampi Times (Times of Remedy), which will be dedicated to the abuses of the transnational pharmaceutical industry against patients, and which will include the findings of reports from Ojo Público’s platform The Big Pharma Project. The next on the list will deal with organized crime, cultural heritage, etc., and will include investigations from the project Memoria Robada. Each one will be between eight and 12 pages, and 1,000 print copies will be available.

As an antecedent to the Times series from El Tercer Ojo, the site published the newspaper Q’umir Times at the beginning of December 2016. This edition, which translates to Green Times, addressed national and international issues in Latin America regarding the environment.

With the editorial project El Tercer Ojo, the investigate site also seeks to make these documents something more permanent in time that readers can save and reread. Soon, they will publish printed books of their investigations, also as part of this project.

According to Hidalgo, "Tercer Ojo is a commitment to turn our digital research into physical documents that give new life to the stories and allow new readings by other audiences. We work with very high-quality content, from prestigious authors, who help us to better communicate the complex issues we address."

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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