Peru court gives journalist suspended jail term

Peruvian journalist César Quino Escudero was sentenced on March 21, 2014, to a six-month suspended prison sentence for defaming the governor of the northeastern state of Ancash, according to news reports. Quino was also fined US$8,400 in damages and sentenced to 120 days of community service.  

Judge Alejandro Mena Quispe ruled that Quino had defamed Gov. César Álvarez Aguilar in a cover story in the bi-weekly magazine he edits, El Observador, which is published in the city of Chimbote. Álvarez said Quino had damaged his honor by writing an article that said he was accused of misusing public funds, abuse of authority, and other acts of corruption, according to news reports. The governor’s lawyer said the journalist had not provided any evidence to support the allegations, the reports said.

El Observador is one of the few media outlets in Ancash that has questioned the governor, according to Fredy Rubiales, a local freelance journalist, who spoke to CPJ. He said that many reporters in the region receive cash payoffs from politicians to write positive stories about them and ignore malfeasance.

Gov. Álvarez has a history of filing defamation suits against critical journalists. In August 2013, he accused Canal 55 journalists Santos Paredes García and Noé García Velásquez of damaging his honor in a television program that questioned his administration, according to the Lima-based Institute for Press and Society. Those cases are still pending.

Peruvian journalist Humberto Espinoza Maguiña was convicted in two separate decisions in September 2013 on charges of defaming Álvarez in two 2012 articles in the daily Prensa Regional of which the journalist was then the editor. The articles alleged that Álvarez was engaged in corrupt acts and that he had been instrumental in closing a local radio station. Álvarez denied the allegations. Espinoza received a two-year suspended prison sentence and was fined US$2,000 in damages.