Stories on Peru: Peruvian journalists under fire for critical reports
LIMA – Provincial journalists in Peru have been targeted with criminal defamation on a regular basis, especially when reporting on alleged corruption.
by Carolina Leseigneur
On November 7, Teobaldo Meléndez Fachín, a TV and radio reporter and director in Yurimaguas, received a suspended prison sentence and a S/.30,000 fine payable to the provincial mayor of Alto Amazonas for having allegedly defamated him.
The sentence was handed down by court judge Gladis Collazos Román, according to an Instituto Prensa y Sociedad report. The mayor brought charges against Fachín for his February 2011 report on Juan Daniel Mesía Camus, the mayor of Yurimaguas in Alto Amazonas province.
Fachín criticized Mesía for allegedly misusing a government loan of S/.5,5 million, saying that they were destined for public works which had not been publicly debated as per Peruvian law.
Congress approved changes that eliminate prison terms for defamation and increase fines and community service periods. The bill has yet to be signed by President Humala.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned the conviction. A CPJ representative commented that journalists should not be criminally charged for making critical reports.
CPJ wrote a letter to President Humala in August this year requesting that he sign the bill to abolish prison sentences for defamation, as the law is used by public officials to silence reporters.
The director of the Peru Press Council (Consejo de la Prensa Peruana, CPP), Kela León, has said that they will present an informative report to the country’s judicial offices about the 30 existing cases of journalists charged with defamation.
Most cases challenge the freedom of the press, according to the CPP.
The CPP has been working with the country’s justice system to establish norms which will allow for an adequate abolishment of penalties on charges of defamation, with the aim of minimizing the proliferation of court procedures and judgements against journalists.