Peru proposes punishing media that publish secretly recorded phone calls

The Supreme Court of Peru sent a bill to Congress that would imprison those who distribute recordings of private conversations obtained by illegal telephone wiretaps, Perú21 reports. Freedom of expression groups said the bill was an attempt to restrict press freedom and weaken the tools used to watchdog the authorities, Diario Ya explains.

According to the AFP, the bill would give three to six years prison terms to those that intercept, interfere, or distribute private communications, and six to ten year terms for distributing those communications via the media. The only exception is if the published conversations are “in the public interest,” language that the director of the Peruvian Press Council (CPP), Kela León, called vague and ill-defined, La República reports.

The CPP warned that the bill creates a means to gag media outlets, Perú21 explains, as the proposal says a judge could close the establishments where illegal distribution is taking place. Peru’s Press and Society Institute (IPYS) highlighted language that allows media outlets and journalists to be sued over such publications and called on the Court to modify the proposal.

However, El Comercio reports that Supreme Court Chief Justice César San Martin denied the bill implied “priori censorship” of the press.

The bill was inspired by several recent cases of illegally-recorded private conversations being released by the media that implicated politicians and oil company executives in corruption in the so-called “petro-audio” and “Business Track” scandals.

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.