The Peruvian journalistic site IDL-Reporteros, which in the middle of this year revealed a deep crisis in the country’s judicial system through the release of audio recordings of telephone leaks, asked the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) to demand that the government provide urgent protection measures for journalists and officials investigating the alleged acts of corruption.
At a public hearing, within the framework of the 169th Periods of Sessions of the Commission, reporter and co-founder of IDL-Reporteros, Romina Mella, spoke before the commissioners and rapporteurs of the IACHR. The journalist detailed the series of acts of harassment from the Judiciary and Congress of which they have been victims as a media outlet.
In addition, she revealed that the Action of Amparo that they lodged to stop the harassment is still pending resolution in the public prosecutor’s office.
Regarding the persistence of judicial harassment against the journalists, Mella said that thanks to the fact that they continued to report and publish audio recordings, some of the public officials who cited them and urged them to reveal their sources and investigative material ended up being implicated and mentioned in the conversations from the audio recordings that revealed alleged acts of corruption in the highest spheres of the Peruvian judicial system.
"For example, we revealed audio recordings that implicated Supreme Prosecutor Víctor Raúl Rodríguez Monteza in acts of judicial corruption,” Mella said.
Rodríguez Monteza, head of the Supreme Prosecutor for Internal Oversight, issued an official letter on July 12 demanding IDL-Reporteros hand over the audio recordings and all its journalistic material and to reveal its sources. If not, according to the prosecutor's request, the journalists would be prosecuted for the crime of resistance or disobedience of authority. This request was later discarded by outgoing Attorney General of the Nation, Pablo Sánchez.
"We stopped the issue [judicial harassment], but thanks to journalistic publication. It was not the public prosecutor's office who had an action against this, but it was investigative journalism," Mella continued.
In an initial audio recording broadcast on July 7 as part of the report “Corte y Corrupción” (Court and Corruption), IDL-Reporteros revealed the conversation held by a judge and the lawyer of the accused about a case of the rape of a minor. In this, Judge César Hinostroza, then-president of the Second Transitory Criminal Court of the Supreme Court, negotiated his sentence in the case.
Attorney Cruz Silva of the civil society organization Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) stated in her speech before the Commission that this harassment of journalists by the public prosecutor and the Congress violates Articles 8 and 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights in relation to judicial guarantees and the right to an independent justice and in terms of freedom of expression, respectively.
The delegation that attended the hearing on behalf of the Peruvian State was led by Deputy Minister of Justice, Fernando Castañeda, who affirmed that the government of President Martín Vizcarra is directly leading the process of reform of the judicial system to protect constitutional guarantees.
"There is a smear campaign against journalists and any citizen who tries to denounce corruption. The reforms proposed by the Executive are not enough, transparency in the elections of the positions of the judicial system are not yet transparent," Mella said.
Likewise, the journalist pointed out that the subpoena of the Oversight and Control Commission of Congress continues to be open for the director of her media outlet, Gustavo Gorriti, and Roxana Cueva, director of the program "Panorama" which also broadcast the audio recordings. In the subpoena that both journalists refused to answer, the parliamentary commission had as an explicit objective to ask them to reveal their sources and deliver all their journalistic material.
Castañeda revealed that the transparency authority of the Ministry of Justice will supervise all institutions of the judicial system. "That has never been done before. They will be able to review the appointments and irregular ratifications of judges, magistrates and prosecutors who have obtained these positions in an irregular manner," Castañeda said in the context of the current crisis that the judicial system is going through after the revelations disseminated by investigative journalism in Peru.
Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, who chaired the session, said that when political interests infiltrate and co-opt the judicial system of a country, "this leads to total impunity for this macro-crime, which is what we call 'white-collar.'" And he added that it is macro-crime "that is going to be totally unpunished and that is very serious for a society, for a democracy. Due to this circumstance, the case of Peru is emblematic.”
Mella explained that judicial harassment of IDL-Reporteros and other journalists who have participated in the investigation and dissemination of the telephone leak recordings is not an isolated case in Peru. The National Association of Journalists of Peru has warned that for the first time in two decades, judicial harassment of journalists has replaced harassment and physical violence against journalists, it said.
"In the Lava Jato case, about the most important corporate corruption in Latin America, the IDL-R journalists, of the weekly Hildebrandt en sus Trece and of the newspaper La República have been sued by people who are now being investigated for money laundering committed by construction company Odebrecht in Peru," the journalist said.