Judge absolves Paraguayan journalist accused of defamation

A Paraguayan judge cleared journalist Sandra López of defamation and slander charges, reported the news agency EFE. López, of the newspaper ABC Color, was accused by ex-model Zuny Castiñeira after publishing an article on alleged influence peddling and corruption for payments received by her husband's company.

"You cannot curtail the right of information and of the media to investigate," said judge Manuel Aguirre during the ruling issued Thursday, June 30. The judge argued that the role of the media is fundamental for democracy, explained ABC Digital.

Aguirre added that a "journalistic opinion never can be objective, but should be truthful," and he rejected the ex-model's claim that the title of Lopez's article, “If this isn't influence peddling, what is it?" was libelous, since it was just a question put to readers, reported ABC Digital in another story.

However, the ex-model said she would appeal the judge's decision, according to Paraguay.com. The announcement was made via her Facebook profile.

López said the judge's decision was a win for journalism and freedom of expression, reported Paraguay.com.

The judicial decision has had political repercussions, as the chief of presidential information, Rubén Penayo, said that no journalistic investigation should be curtailed. While a right to privacy exists, he said, courts should favor access to information, reported ABC Digital.

Besides López, two other ABC Color journalists, Omar Acosta and Jorge Torres, are facing lawsuits for articles they wrote that offended authorities.

The complete transcript of the Lopez case is available in Spanish here.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.