Peruvian Supreme Court frees editor jailed for defamation

New York, June 21, 2010—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Friday’s decision by the Peruvian Supreme Court to release Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco, editor of the weekly newspaper Nor Oriente, who was sentenced on January 12 to one year in prison on defamation charges.

Peru’s Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a court in Bagua, Utcubamba province, the local press said. Carrascal was convicted in January over a series of articles he wrote in 2005 alleging corruption in a local public college, CPJ research shows. A court of appeals upheld the decision in early April. Victor Feria Puelles, the former director of the institution, had filed the defamation lawsuit alleging his reputation was damaged, the Lima-based newspaper La República reported.

“We hail the Supreme Court’s decision to release Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ Americas program senior coordinator. “Peruvian authorities must now eliminate criminal defamation provisions, which still pose a serious threat to press freedom and the right of Peruvians to be informed.”

Another Peruvian journalist, Oswaldo Pereyra Moreno is serving a one-year prison term on a defamation conviction. Pereyra, a radio host for the San Lorenzo-based broadcaster Radio Macarena, was sentenced on June 9 on charges stemming from a September 2009 broadcast about an illegal abortion, according to CPJ research.

There is a growing consensus in Latin America that civil actions are adequate recourse in defamation cases. The Costa Rican Supreme Court eliminated prison terms for criminal defamation in December 2009. A month before that, in November 2009, the Argentine Congress repealed criminal defamation provisions in its penal code. In April 2009, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal annulled the 1967 Press Law, which had imposed harsh penalties for libel and slander. Courts in Colombia and Chile have also addressed the issue in recent rulings that dismissed criminal penalties against journalists accused of libel and slander.