Reporters Without Borders today hailed a decision the National Electoral Board (JNE) to rescind the exorbitant 25,000 euros fine which local electoral authorities in the northern region of San Martín had imposed on the new, regional daily Aldía on 11 April for publishing an opinion poll without clearing it first with them.
In response to an appeal by Aldía, the JNE ruled that the punishment was unreasonable and did not respect the impact on the entity punished. The newspaper, which was only launched on 13 February, would probably have been bankrupted by the fine.
25.04.06 - Crippling fine for newspaper that broke electoral rule on publishing opinion polls
A fine of 25,000 euros on the regional daily Aldía for publishing an opinion poll without clearing it first with the local electoral authorities is excessive and could force the newspaper to close, Reporters Without Borders said today, calling for the punishment to be quashed when an appeal is heard this week.
The fine was imposed on 11 April by the Special Electoral Board in the northern department of San Martín, where Aldía is based. An appeal was presented on 21 April to the National Electoral Board, which is due to consider the case this week.
“We do not dispute that Aldía may have been guilty of violating a legal requirement, but the size of the fine imposed by the Special Electoral Board in San Martín takes no account of the newspaper’s financial resources and the possibility that it could be forced to close,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“And anyway, what advantage did the newspaper derive from failing to comply with this requirement?” the press freedom organisation asked, adding: “We call on the National Electoral Board, which plays the role of appeal court in this case, to reconsider the regional board’s decision and to quash this disproportionate fine.”
Launched last February, Aldía has made a name for itself for its reports on the widespread judicial corruption in the main cities of San Martín and the adjoining department of Amazonas, the region it covers. But it turned out that, under Peruvian law, it should have submitted its opinion poll to the Special Electoral Board in San Martín before publishing it.
The Peruvian press freedom organisation Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) shares the view that the size of the fine imposed by the Special Electoral Board is out of all proportion to this young newspaper’s resources and threatens its survival.