Peruvian judge overturns defamation conviction against journalist in case involving former president

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  • August 10, 2016

By Teresa Mioli and Paola Nalvarte

The defamation conviction against a Peruvian journalist who was accused by former President Alan García Pérez has been overturned.

The Fourth Criminal Court of Lima annulled the sentence against Fernando Valencia, former director of Diario 16, according to lawyer Carlos Rivera of the Legal Defense Institute (IDL for its acronym in Spanish).

This is an important legal victory, even more so for those who exercise journalism and freedom of expression. From the beginning, we said that the complaint was arbitrary because it was criminalizing a journalistic act,” Rivera said on Aug. 9, according to news agency Andina.

In April 2016, Valencia was convicted of aggravated defamation against García and given a 20-month suspended prison sentence. Additionally, he was ordered to pay 100,000 Peruvian Nuevo soles (USD $30,000) in damages to the former president.

At the time of the sentencing, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for the IACHR and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed their concern.

The suit concerned a March 1, 2013 front page of Diario 16 with the headline “Humala lashes out against the Aprista government: Thieves to jail, not in power” along with photos of then-Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and former President García.

The case was found to be inadmissible in June 2013. A different court then convicted Valencia in April 2016. After the conviction, Valencia appealed the ruling and it was reported that his case would be presented before the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

This is one of at least three defamation cases against journalists in Peru this year.

Rafael León was ordered to pay 6,000 Peruvian soles (about U.S. $1,800) in civil damages and sentenced to a one-year probationary period for an opinion column in magazine Caretas.

César Lévano, director of Peruvian newspaper Diario Uno (formerly newspaper La Primera), and journalist Javier Soto were ordered to pay 50,000 soles (about USD $15,000) as civil reparation in connection with an article about alleged irregularities in the election of a judicial council member.

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.