Every October 1st we celebrate in our country the Day of the Peruvian Journalist as a recognition of the work of all journalists who as guardians of society are in charge of being the watchful eye that informs us of everything that happens in our country.
The reason why this day was chosen as the commemorative date dates back to October 1st, 1790, when Francisco Cabello y Mesa founded the “Diario de Lima”, the first journalistic publication with regular circulation in Peru.
In honor of this event, the date was proposed in the First National Congress of the Peruvian Federation of Journalists, which was held in 1950. The request was sent to the Government and three years later the celebration was made official by means of Supreme Decree No. 2521.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right in any democracy, and Peruvian journalists are fortunate to be protected under a law that defends this right. Due to the high rate of corruption that exists in our country, it is our duty as communicators to keep people informed so that they can be aware of what is happening in our society.
Although the right to freedom of speech did not always prevail in Peru, there were times in our history when our media was repressed. These are some of the most remembered cases:
Expropriation of the Expreso and Extra newspapers
Fifty years ago, the military government of Velasco Alvarado expropriated the newspapers Expreso and Extra. Decree-Law No. 18169 was published in the newspaper El Peruano for its validation on March 4, 1970; however, the expropriation was carried out that same day at dawn, before anyone knew of the decree.
At 6 am, the journalists and directors of the newspaper arrived at the newspaper’s offices, but were not allowed to enter. The newspaper had been handed over to persons designated by the government for its administration. Sometime later, Velasco would explain that he gave the newspapers to these people so that they could serve him as hunting dogs in his anti-oligarchic struggle.
Intervention to the newspaper La República
After the self-coup on April 5, 1992, of the then president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, the Armed Forces intervened in the newsrooms of the newspaper La República in an attempt to silence the truth and prevent the population from learning of Fujimori’s self-coup.
In protest, the newspaper La República published its printed edition the following day with several completely blank pages. A concrete demonstration that a dictatorship had been installed in Peru; but at the same time, it was also a very creative way for journalists to get out of the situation.
The mutilated newspaper is a historical piece for Peruvian journalism and proof of the time when journalists lived censored through violence.
Journalism currently faces a time of transformation. The current situation has been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic that is hitting the entire world and the journalistic profession was not spared from being affected. In our country, at the beginning of the health crisis, there were massive dismissals of journalists due to budget cuts. Defenders of the truth ended up on the streets despite having exposed their lives to the deadly virus.
During the month of June, the National Association of Journalists (NAJ) denounced the group El Comercio for allegedly “covering up in the figure of‘ mutual dissent agreement ’the dismissal of more than a hundred journalists. It should be noted that this group was the most benefited from the Reactiva Peru program, receiving a bonus of 34 million soles, according to reports from the Ojo Público portal.
Until the month of August, the NAJ reported that 82 journalists have died from COVID-19 in our country. Casualties in the rest of the world reach the figure of 366.
Despite the danger, journalistic work is not looking to stop. The history of humanity is reconfigured day after day and we journalists will always be willing to walk in its wake to tell everyone the different versions of the world and thus always keep them abreast of what is happening in our society.