Freedom of Expression

Press Release R71/11







Washington, D.C., July 20, 2011 The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern regarding the sentence handed down in Perú against Hans Francisco Andrade Chavez, a journalist with the network America TV, for the crime of aggravated defamation.


According to the information received, a criminal judge of Chepén sentenced the journalist to two years in prison, payment of 4,000 New Soles as civil damages (around US$1,460) and a fine equivalent to 120 working day wages because he defamed a deputy manager of Public Services of Chepén. The decision ordered the journalist to issue a public retraction and apologize for two days via the same media outlet, at his own expense. The journalist and his lawyer announced that they will appeal the judgment. The case originated in March when the journalist interviewed a member of a local political party, who in several media outlets accused the deputy manager of threatening her with death. The plaintiff only sued the America TV journalist.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur has expressed its concern over the application of the crime of defamation in Peru against individuals who have limited themselves to denouncing or expressing opinions critical of those who hold or have held public office. This issue is even more worrisome if the defendant is a journalist who interviews a person who is discussing a topic of public interest in the media.


The act of denouncing or expressing opinions against public servants or persons who have held public office is broadly protected under Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Expression cannot, under any circumstance, be qualified as an act of criminal defamation based solely on the fact that the public figure addressed feels offended. Individuals who hold or have held public office have a duty to withstand a higher degree of criticism and questioning, precisely because they voluntarily assume the administration of important public responsibilities.


Accordingly, principle ten of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights establishes that: "The protection of a person's reputation should only be guaranteed through civil sanctions in those cases in which the person offended is a public official, a public person or a private person who has voluntarily become involved in matters of public interest. In addition, in these cases, it must be proven that in disseminating the news, the social communicator had the specific intent to inflict harm, was fully aware that false news was disseminated, or acted with gross negligence in efforts to determine the truth or falsity of such news."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls upon the competent judicial authorities of Peru to consider the international standards on freedom of expression currently in effect when rendering their decision in the case of Hans Francisco Andrade Chávez.