LIMA – Peru’s National Association of Journalists said Monday that news professionals in the Andean nation are facing “systematic judicial persecution” for expressing unpopular opinions and exposing official corruption.
The organization, known by the initials ANP, specifically referred to cases against Rafael Leon, who writes for Caretas weekly, and Fernando Valencia, former editor of Diario 16 newspaper.
Valencia is due in court Monday to answer a defamation charge brought by two-time former President Alan Garcia.
“He is accused of reproducing statements of President Ollanta Humala against plaintiff Alan Garcia Perez. National jurisprudence in all defamation cases is clear: the reproduction of statements citing the source does not constitute an offense,” the ANP said of Valencia’s case.
Leon has been summoned to appear in court on May 3 to hear the verdict in a case brought against him by Martha Meier Miro Quesada, former publisher of Lima daily El Comercio, who is seeking 5 million soles ($1.5 million) in damages.
Besides the fine, Leon could face up to three years in prison for an opinion column published in Caretas two years ago, the ANP said.
The majority of more than 100 legal actions brought against journalists in Peru during the last five years were launched “with the clear intention to limit the rights of information and opinion,” according to the ANP.
“All the cases conform to a general pattern: the possibility of prison time for the journalists and the demand for millions in damages that, if applied, would bankrupt media outlets and silence journalists,” the association said.
The ANP called on Congress to follow the example of other Latin American nations in eliminating criminal penalties for libel, slander and defamation.