JANUARY 19, 2005
Posted: March 1, 2005

Julio Jara Ladrón de Guevara, El Comercio


Jara, editor and publisher of the daily El Comercio, based in the southern city of Cusco, was convicted of criminal defamation charges brought by a former government official. He received a one-year suspended sentence.

Rafael Córdova, who worked as an advisor to Cusco regional authorities until December 2002, filed a criminal defamation lawsuit against Jara in November 2004, according to José Alberto Ordóñez, political editor for El Comercio.

The case stems from comments Cusco congressman Manuel Figueroa made to the press on October 3, 2003, in which he denounced Córdova for allegedly defrauding peasants of money, Ordóñez told CPJ. Córdova, Figueroa claimed, was no longer working for government but had introduced himself as a government official and had convinced peasants to give him samples of handicraft to sell. Córdova never returned the handicraft, whose value was estimated at several thousands in U.S. dollars, Figueroa contended.

The following day, El Comercio described Figueroa’s allegations in an article, Ordóñez said. More than a year later, Córdova filed a lawsuit claiming that El Comercio had intended to cause him harm. He also claimed Figueroa had never made the accusations.

At a January 19 hearing, Judge Miguel Ángel Castelo asked Jara to produce a recording of Figueroa’s statements. El Comercio has a policy of keeping tape recordings for only two weeks, so Jara was unable to produce a recording, Ordóñez said. Based on this, Castelo found Jara guilty.

Jara appealed, but a hearing was not immediately scheduled. According to Ordóñez, Jara has obtained a letter from Figueroa confirming his October 2003 statements and saying that the El Comercio article was based on them.