Greenpeace seeks to exclude journalists from Peru case

2015-01-21 11:15

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Lima - Greenpeace said on Tuesday it has given prosecutors the names of four people involved in a protest for renewable energy at the country's famed Nazca Lines archaeological site, an action that sparked widespread outrage in Peru.

In naming the activists, the group urged prosecutors to drop legal proceedings against two journalists who covered the 8 December event, Associated Press photographer Rodrigo Abd and Reuters video journalist Herbert Villaraga.

Officials have accused participants of permanently damaging one of the country's most important cultural treasures by using the fragile desert at the site as the backdrop for Greenpeace's environmental message.

The lines are stylised figures of animals and objects etched into landscape by a pre-Columbian culture and are a Unesco World Heritage site. Activists walked over dark desert sands to lay yellow fabric letters near one of them that spelled out a message: "The future is renewable." Peruvian officials say the tracks that they left marred that image, and demanded the names of those involved.

Greenpeace has apologised and offered to pay for any damage, but so far it has avoided identifying most of the 20 activists from seven countries who it says took part.

Argentine-based Greenpeace official Martin Prieto said that the two people primarily responsible are German archaeologist Wolfgang Sadik and his countryman, Martin Kaiser.

Their sworn declarations and those from two others involved were being delivered to prosecutors Tuesday, Greenpeace officials said.

Fear

"It is the personal choice of individual participants whether they offer their names to the prosecutor. What has been given to the prosecutor includes statements offered by four participants who have given their names, addresses and a description of their role," Greenpeace spokesperson Mike Townsley said in an email.

So far, prosecutors have publicly accused only three people: Argentine activist Mauro Fernandez and the two journalists.

Prieto, Greenpeace regional director for Argentina, Colombia and Chile, told The Associated Press that the group wants international experts to determine how best to whatever damage might have been done.

Culture minister Diana Alvarez-Calderon rejected that offer, saying Peruvian experts are already doing such a study.

"We don't know if we will be able to reverse the damage," she told RPP radio.

The AP has called for the Peruvian prosecutor to withdraw her request to jail Abd, a Peru resident who is currently in his home country of Argentina.

Santiago Lyon, AP's vice president and director of photography, defended the coverage of the event.

"Abd is an internationally celebrated journalist who upholds the AP's high standards of ethics and integrity," he said. "Independent news organizations must be permitted to bear witness to news events without fear of government interference or reprisal."

The foreign press association of Peru and the Institute for Press and Society of Peru have both urged authorities to exclude journalists from the criminal case.

The Inter-American Press Association added its voice on Monday. "Restrictions on the movement and work of journalists are contrary to freedom of the press," it said.

Read more on:    greenpeace  |  peru

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