Two Peruvian journalists sentenced to two years in prison for alleged defamation

By Liliana Honorato

On Tuesday, June 5, two Peruvian journalists were sentenced to two years in prison and fined to pay more than $22,000 each to the former Interior Minister, Antonio Ketín Vidal Herrera, who accused the journalists of "alleged defamation" on January 12, 2011, reported the Press and Society Institute.

Ketín accused the director of the newspaper Diario 16Juan Carlos Tafur, and journalist Roberto More, of defamation after the journalists published a report that linked Ketín to the family Sánchez Paredes, which has been investigated for several years for alleged drug trafficking, reported the newspaper Perú21 and the news agency EFE.

In their defense, the journalists said that the report was based on “a police document and is not part of a ‘systematic campaign of defamation and discredit,' as stated by the former minister," reported Perú21.

According to the newspaper La República, only a few days back, the Research and Anti-Corruption Unit Bureau of the Judiciary requested to fine 10 percent of judge Chávez Hernández's wages for various irregularities during the processing of the lawsuit. The Legal Defense Institute will appeal the journalists' sentence due to the multiple irregularities in the trial, arguing that the judge hadn't listened to oral reports, according to the newspaper Correo.

Peruvian journalists are constantly attacked and threatened, especially by public officials, and face criminal penalties for defamation lawsuits. In November 2011, Peruvian journalist Teobaldo Meléndez Fachín was sentenced to three years in jail for defamation, but in March of this year the Supreme Court void the journalist's prison sentence.

At the beginning of May, the Journalist's Human Rights Office of the National Association of Journalists of Peru published a report that said there were 49 attacks against journalists in Peru since the beginning of 2012.

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.