Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Death Threats, Arrests, Imprisonment, Torture: Journalism Is a Dangerous Profession in Huanta, Peru, Where 14 Journalists Have Been Killed since 1983

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Death Threats, Arrests, Imprisonment, Torture: Journalism Is a Dangerous Profession in Huanta, Peru, Where 14 Journalists Have Been Killed since 1983

Article excerpt

WHERE ALEJANDRO CORONADO comes from, journalism is such a dangerous profession that there is a tomb to hold its dead.

Three of 14 journalists killed since 1983 in Coronado's hometown of Huanta, Peru, lie in the mausoleum. It has room for 20 more.

On the side of the one-story cement building, erected in 1985 by Coronado and another local reporter, appear the words, "The journalist is a friend."

That message often has been lost on the government soldiers, local militiamen, drug traffickers and Shining Path guerrillas struggling for power in and around Huanta.

Coronado, a radio broadcaster, Reuters correspondent and freelance writer for a national daily and newsweekly, has suffered death threats, arrests, imprisonment and torture. He has lost five of six journalist friends with whom he grew up in the poor southern mountain town.

The 28-year-old reporter told his story many times during the spring semester as a visiting fellow at Duke University's DeWitt Wallace Center for Communications and Journalism in Durham, N.C.

A Ford Foundation grant has allowed the center to expand its program to include journalists who work in emerging democracies or under conditions of hardship, executive director Dee Reid said. Coronado said the most valuable part of the visit for him was sharing experiences with other journalists, including those from Poland and Germany.

"In all the countries, there are problems with censorship of the press" he said, speaking through a translator. "The difference is in some countries, there's taking away of liberties, and in other countries, there's taking away of life.

"You never know what they're going to do," Coronado said, referring to the guerrilla group that took up arms against the government in 1980. "They don't necessarily kill you because they want to kill you. They want to see what effect your death will have, what kind of publicity they can get."

Other groups have their reasons for killing journalists.

"To work as a journalist in Huanta is very difficult," said Robin Kirk, who met Coronado while freelancing for the San Francisco Chronicle in Peru from 1989 to 1991. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.