Letter: How Peru threatens a brave journalist

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Sir: I wonder if I could draw your attention to the case of a Peruvian journalist whose life is being threatened in her native country because of her reporting.

Cecilia Valenzuela's investigative reports on Peruvian television, exposing the involvement of elements in the army with the cocaine trade and serious human rights abuses, brought her great popularity. When a BBC team, of which I was a member, visited Peru in September and October last year, Ms Valenzuela worked with us.

In 1991 she was sued for defamation by a general who was accused by one of her interviewees of involvement in torture and murder. The court dismissed the case, but in the changed circumstances after President Fujimori suspended the constitution last year the general's appeal was upheld. Ms Valenzuela was given a one-year suspended sentence.

This has now been confirmed by another court. If someone else chooses to sue her and wins, she will go to prison. Some nights ago a package was delivered to her door containing a severed chicken's head; with it was a photograph of Ms Valenzuela, smeared with blood.

President Fujimori wants to improve his administration's links with Britain and other Western countries. Unless, however, he takes steps to stop this kind of persecution and violence, public opinion will make it harder to help Peru. Ms Valenzuela's friends abroad will be watching carefully to see what

happens.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN SIMPSON

BBC Television Centre

London, W12

30 March

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