Enrique Zileri, publisher and long-time editor of Peru’s leading news magazine Caretas, passed away early Monday. A well-known defender of press freedom and a tireless investigator of corruption, he was 83 years old.
Zileri led Caretas, which was co-founded by his mother Doris Gibson with Francisco Igartua in 1950, over several decades. The magazine was closed down several times by the military governments, and Zileri was deported twice during General Velasco’s dictatorship in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Years later, in 1995, his sharp sense of humor never far away, Zileri bet that President Alberto Fujimori would not have a clear majority in his 1995 re-election bid and would have to face a runoff. Zileri lost the bet and had to take a plunge in the water fountain in the Plaza de Armas, where he was joined by several Caretas journalists.
Fujimori is said to have described Caretas as a thorn in the flesh.
Some of the country’s leading journalists cut their teeth on the Caretas editorial team, including Raul Vargas of RPP, Gustavo Gorriti of IDL-Reporteros, Cesar Hildebrandt, and novelist Fernando Ampuero.
Zileri served as president of UNESCO’s International Press Institute (1988-1990), and of the Peruvian Press Council, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Peru’s Catholic University in 2010. He was honored in Congress last year, and at San Marcos University.
In November last year, Zileri joined seven other journalists to file an appeal in court against the concentration of print media when the El Comercio publishing and broadcasting group gained control of 78% of the country’s newspaper circulation by acquiring the Epensa publishing group.
Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa said that Zileri was “unfaltering in his fight for freedom and democracy in Peru” and an “active defender of human rights.”
“He was harassed many times for his identification with those ideals and Caretas experienced kidnappings and prohibitions,” the author wrote Monday following news of Zileri’s passing. “But he could never be intimidated or bribed.”
Peru’s political class also paid tribute to Zileri.
First Lady Nadine Heredia said that he was an “indispensable journalist,” while former President Alan Garcia described him as a “symbol of freedom of expression.”
Zileri’s eldest son, Marco, is currently publisher of Caretas.