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Peru24 January 2005

Journalist given one-year suspended prison sentence for "defamation"

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over a one-year suspended prison sentence handed down on 19 January 2005 to Julio Jara Ladrón de Guevara, editor of the daily El Comercio in Cuzco, in southern Peru.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called for the prison term to be quashed at appeal, stressing that "criminalising press offences is a serious obstacle to freedom of information. Even when suspended a prison sentence for a press offence can only push journalists towards self-censorship," it said.

A judge in Cuzco, Miguel Angel Castelo Andía, sentenced de Guevara for "defamation" of Rafael Córdova Paliza, a former official in the regional government. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 16,000 soles (nearly 3,800 euros) as well as 1,000 soles (about 230 euros) in damages to the complainant. De Guevara has already lodged an appeal.

The editor published an item on 3 October 2003, quoting Congressman Manuel Figueroa Quintana, accusing Rafael Córdova Paliza of cheating 42 peasant communities out of 60, 000 soles (just over 14,000 euros) by passing himself off as a advisor to President Alejandro Toledo.

Reporters Without Borders pointed out that Article 11 of the Declaration of Principles on free expression by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission says "public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society". It also states that, "Laws that penalise offensive expressions directed at public officials restrict freedom of expression and the right to information."

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