JANUARY 6, 2005
Posted: March 23, 2005
Luis Aguirre Pastor, La Voz de Madre de Dios
Aguirre, a radio journalist based in the city of Puerto Maldonado in the southern Madre de Dios region, could be barred from working as a journalist for a year after an appeals court upheld his September 2003 conviction on criminal defamation charges.
On January 6, 2005, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Madre de Dios dismissed an appeal filed by Aguirre and upheld a lower court ruling that convicted him of criminal defamation, gave him a two-year suspended jail sentence, and ordered him to pay a fine.
His lawyer filed a second appeal on February 18, and it will be heard by another three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Madre de Dios, Aguirre told CPJ. His sentence did not take effect while the appeal was pending.
The case stems from reports Aguirre aired in February 2002 on his news program “La Voz de Madre de Dios” (The Voice of Madre de Dios), broadcast by La Voz Amazónica radio station in Puerto Maldonado. Basing his report on police records and sources, Aguirre alleged that a local lawyer had once led a criminal gang that stole motorcycles.
The lawyer allegedly acquired a stolen motorcycle but was never convicted. He filed a criminal complaint against Aguirre in February 2003, claiming he had been defamed.
In September 2003, Judge Fredy Vengoa Zúñiga, of the Second Court of Puerto Maldonado, convicted Aguirre of criminal defamation, sentenced him to two years in prison, and ordered him to pay a fine of US$3,000 in civil damages. Aguirre’s prison sentence was immediately suspended and he was required to sign a judicial register at the Second Court of Puerto Maldonado once a month.
As an additional punishment, Aguirre was barred from working as a journalist for a year. Vengoa defended his decision to bar Aguirre from working, saying that Aguirre did not have a journalism degree and wasn’t a member of any journalists’ trade association.