A Lima court recently convicted Peruvian journalist Erick Osores of criminal defamation. (Photo: Erick Osores)

Peruvian journalist Erick Osores convicted of criminal defamation, given 1-year suspended prison term

On January 14, 2021, a Peruvian criminal court convicted journalist Erick Iván Osores Patiño of defamation and sentenced him to a one-year suspended prison term, according to news reports and Osores, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

Osores, a sports reporter for the Lima-based TV stations América Televisión and Canal N, told CPJ that his conviction stemmed from comments he made about a local soccer team executive on January 28, 2018.

As a guest on a roundtable sports program on the Lima radio station Exitosa, Osores said he had questioned the management abilities of Óscar Vega Bonadona, then president of the Club Deportivo Municipal team. Osores told CPJ that he blamed Vega for financial mismanagement of the team, and used a colloquial phrase equivalent to saying, “sometimes, being inept is worse than being a thief.”

In May 2018, Vega filed a criminal defamation suit complaint against Osores for the use of that phrase, and a judge in Lima’s Ninth District Criminal Court convicted the journalist on January 14, 2021, in a decision first made public on January 22 by the National Journalists Association, an independent trade group.

In addition to the suspended prison sentence, Osores told CPJ that he was ordered to pay 10,000 soles (US$2,746) in damages to Vega. Osores said that he is appealing the conviction, and has not paid the fine as of February 2, 2021.

Osores said that he is required to check-in with authorities every month while the case remains in appeal.

“It’s obvious that this is an attack on press freedom,” Osores told CPJ. He said that if the conviction is upheld, “no journalist will be able to have an opinion about anything.”

In its January 22 statement on Osores’ case, the National Journalists Association noted that public figures in Peru have increasingly filed defamation lawsuits “with the illegitimate goal of intimidating journalists and restricting their ability to report the news and investigate.”

CPJ’s called the press office of Peru’s Ministry of Justice and Human Rights but there was no answer. CPJ called Vega multiple times for comment, but he did not answer.