25 years ago
There is an independent documentary film being made about a group of journalists, who became part of their own story when they were murdered in 1983 in Uchuraccay, a remote hamlet in the Andes of Peru, as they were investigating rumors of extrajudicial killing by the military. It took place in the midst of violent warfare between the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla organization, and government forces.
The filmmakers need our help to complete this project.
The killings of eight journalists, all of them from opposition newspapers, might have been just another unfortunate event caused by the violence that consumed the Andean region during those years. Yet their deaths were followed by significant irregularities in the legal process. Most of the suspects were never arrested, and according to legal records, the military authorities in the area, led by Army General Clemente Noel, did not cooperate with Judge Juan Flores, the investigator assigned to the case.
Most witnesses in Uchuraccay died in mysterious circumstances, and the remaining villagers escaped to nearby areas, leaving behind a ghost town.
A government investigative commission concluded that the journalists were killed by the villagers of Uchuraccay, who took them for terrorists, mistaking their cameras for rifles.
The story took a different turn three months later, with the discovery of a bag belonging to Willy Retto, which contained a camera with some revealing pictures of the moment when the journalists arrived in the town and spoke with the local villagers. The fact that three of the journalists spoke Quechua, and therefore could communicate with the locals who could not speak Spanish, challenged the official theory of mistaken identity.
Some witnesses stated that the journalists were incarcerated in the communal house, and killed after midnight. Yet those witnesses also died in suspicious circumstances.
Three local men were convicted to six years in prison. Although the case was never closed, it has been kept for the last twenty years as confidential.
The purpose of this documentary is to tell the story and help the families to request the reopening of the case.
This story honors journalists killed all over the world in the line of duty with contemporary relevance, as the Iraq war and other conflicts worldwide have left scores of journalists killed in recent years.
Bringing the killers to justice will contribute to put an end to years of impunity in Peru. Many other cases of killings in neighboring areas have been reopened and those responsible have been convicted. The killings of Uchuraccay should not be the exception.