U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Newspaper publisher shot after dispute over caricatures

Incident Details


Isaías Amaro, publisher of the satirical Spanish newspaper El Periodiquito, was shot by a leader of a community organization in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, when the man confronted him about his reporting on Oct. 4, 2023.

October 4, 2023

Journalist Bernardo Isaías Amaro Pérez, who publishes under Isaías Amaro, was shot in the arm Oct. 4, 2023, by a leader of a community organization in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who had previously taken issue with his portrayal in Amaro’s publication.

Amaro, who was taken to a local hospital for treatment, is the publisher of the El Periodiquito, a Spanish-language newspaper that uses humor and caricature in its reporting, describing itself as “un periódico serio escrito en bromas” — a serious newspaper written in jokes.

In an interview with the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, Amaro said that he began reporting on Víctor Pérez Balbuena in June 2023. His articles included claims that Pérez was using his position as president of La Casa Dominicana de Hazleton to exploit community members. Pérez denied these allegations and accused Amaro of defamation in a lengthy video.

Amaro later charged that, in response to the reporting, Pérez threatened him and local businesses distributing El Periodiquito with a gun; threatened to kill Amaro and a candidate for mayor while speaking on a radio show; and punctured Amaro’s car tires.

Pérez told law enforcement that he decided to confront Amaro over illustrations in El Periodiquito that featured him, his wife and his daughter, after Amaro attempted to distribute the newspaper where Pérez’s daughter works, according to WOLF-TV. Pérez told police that Amaro exited his vehicle wielding a knife, and that he shot at the publisher to stop him from approaching.

In his conversation with the Tracker, however, Amaro denied having any weapons and accused Pérez of cornering him at his art workshop and shooting at him multiple times while shouting that he would kill him. One of the rounds struck Amaro in the arm.

The Hazleton City Police Department said in a press release that Pérez fled the scene, but was arrested later that evening. He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, including one with a deadly weapon, as well as reckless endangerment, according to court records reviewed by the Tracker.

Amaro said that he continues to be in fear for his life and has suffered sleeping problems since the shooting. He added that while he and his colleagues are working to publish the November edition of El Periodiquito, his injuries prevent him from drawing its characteristic illustrations.

Editor’s Note: Our interview with Isaías Amaro was translated from Spanish by Dagmar Thiel of Fundamedios, a partner of the Tracker.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].