False Shining Path Claims Underline Problems Within Peru Media

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A an investigative media outlet in Peru has exposed a Peruvian newspaper for publishing false information regarding ties between the Shining Path rebel group and its political wing, Movadef, raising questions over whether it was carelessness or willful omission behind the newspaper’s oversight.

Following the publication of El Comercio’s April 16 edition with the headline “Our comrades must be freed for the armed struggle not to end,” IDL Reporteros issued a report scolding the national newspaper for basing their accusations on testimony that had already been disproven when it first emerged.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Shining Path 

El Comercio’s story highlighted two alleged meetings in 2008, attended by Alfredo Crespo and Manuel Fajardo — the recently arrested lawyers of jailed Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman and heads of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef) — in which they appeared as members of the guerrilla group. The gatherings were reportedly to discuss how to strengthen Movadef in order to bolster attempts to secure the release of jailed guerrillas, as well as to arrange financial support from the rebels.

On April 16, InSight Crime reported on the El Comercio story.

As the IDL Reporteros report highlights, doubts over those claims saw a special detective from the Peruvian police’s anti-terrorism unit (Dircote) assigned to the case. He concluded that Crespo could not have attended the first meeting because he was visiting a naval base where Guzman was imprisoned at the time, while guest records prove that Fajardo did not stay at the hotel El Comercio reported he had been collected from by guerrillas.

These documents were made public by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in early-2013, with Movadef immediately publishing them on its website.

The counter-expose comes a week after the arrest of 28 Movadef members for links to the guerrillas and receiving illicit funds.

InSight Crime Analysis

The report from IDL Reporteros paints a troubling picture of the state of Peru’s media, which democracy advocacy NGO Freedom House has reported suffers from deep corruption and political pressure. The situation is exacerbated by the country’s lack of an independent media regulatory body. 

In the report, IDL Reporteros highlights two possible reasons for the misinformation: the first suggests the paper’s reporters did a poor job of verifying the information, a theory supported by the fact El Comercio’s investigative unit had been dissolved recently beforehand, while the second suggests a willing omission of available information. 

While Movadef has previously been proven to receive funding from the Shining Path, the suggestion its leaders were acting as integrated members of the guerrilla group could have been important in the case against the arrested members, who currently face up to 35 years in prison.

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