In Peru, journalist handed suspended jail term

Peruvian journalist Humberto Espinoza Maguiña was convicted twice in two consecutive days in September 2013 on charges of defaming the governor of the northeastern state of Ancash, according to news reports. He received a two-year suspended prison sentence and was fined US$2,000 in damages.

In the first decision, on September 18, 2013, Judge Gisela Zúñiga ruled that Espinoza had defamed Gov. César Álvarez Aguilar in an article published in August 2012, in the daily Prensa Regional, of which the journalist was then the editor. The article accused César Álvarez of participating in local corruption. The judge handed down the prison sentence and fine, as well as a requirement that he fulfill 120 days of community service, according to the reports.

In the second ruling, the next day, Espinoza was convicted of defaming Álvarez in an October 2012 article in Prensa Regional, which accused Álvarez and the Ancash government of closing a local radio station for political motives, according to the local press freedom group IPYS. The reports did not say what the sentence was for the second case.

Álvarez denied both allegations, reports said.

Espinoza told IPYS he had been receiving threats related to his reporting on Álvarez and said he would appeal both rulings.

Álvarez has a history of filing defamation suits against critical journalists. The month before the rulings, he accused journalists César Quino Escudero, Santos Paredes García, and Noé García Velásquez of damaging his honor in a television program that questioned his administration and showed the cover of a magazine that accused him of corruption, according to IPYS. In that case, which is ongoing, the governor has asked for US$360,000 in damages.