Authorities in Peru should investigate all theories into the deaths of two journalists in apparently separate incidents whose remains were found just days apart in recent weeks, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.
On Feb. 27, the dismembered body of 55-year-old journalist José Feliciano Yactayo Rodríguez was found in a rural area outside Lima in a suitcase that had been torched, police reported. Sugarcane farmers found Yactayo’s half-burnt body as they tried to extinguish the fire.
Police said that the remains, from which several limbs were missing, were so mutilated that Yactayo’s identity could not be confirmed until late last week.
Yactayo – a former editor and producer for two of Peru’s biggest broadcast news shows, América Televisión and Frecuencia Latina – was last seen on Feb. 24, after friends had dropped him off three blocks from his house.
Reports have indicated that police are focusing on a personal motive unrelated to the journalist’s work, but a colleague said this week that Yactayo had expressed fear for his life.
Just one day before Yactayo’s body was found, the body of Julio César Moisés Mesco, 27, was discovered in Ica, in southern Peru, 16 days after he went missing. Moisés’ body was reportedly in such an advanced state of decomposition that his father could only identify him based on shoes found with the remains.
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis expressed alarm at the deaths and called for full investigations into both crimes.
“Murders of journalists in connection with their work have been relatively rare in recent years in Peru, so these two deaths, coupled with the disturbing abuse of Mr. Yactayo’s remains and a series of other incidents in recent months, raise concerns about the climate journalists face,” he said. “We urge Peru’s government to explore all possible avenues in these cases and to send a message that attacks on journalists will not be met with impunity.”
The deaths of Yactayo and Moisés came just three months after the Nov. 20 murder of another journalist in Peru. Hernán Choquepata Ordoñez, known as Randy, was attacked while presenting his radio program “Habla Pueblo” at local broadcaster La Ribereña in Camaná, in southern Peru.
According to local reports, Choquepata was beaten before his attackers shot him in his head in his transmission cabin. The attackers also reportedly destroyed his equipment but did not steal anything. Choquepata was known for his harsh criticism of politicians and corruption, and activism for low-income persons. A colleague told local media that he believed the murder was connected to Choquepata’s work.
In another disturbing incident, early last month assailants reportedly attacked journalist Marco Bonifacio Sánchez in Lima and tried to cut out his tongue, leaving him hospitalised.