Freedom of Expression

Press Release R62/12






Washington,D.C., June 11, 2012− The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the criminal conviction for aggravated defamation issued on June 5th by a Peruvian judge against Juan Carlos Tafur and Roberto More, executive editor and reporter of the Diario 16 newspaper, stemmed from a news story that involved a former Director of the National Police and former Minister of Interior in alleged illegal activities.


According to the information received, the Twelfth Criminal Court of Lima had sentenced the media workers to 2 years in jail with suspended execution of the sentence and to the payment of 60,000 soles (approximately US$ 23,000) to Antonio Ketin Vidal Herrera, who felt offended by information published on January 12, 2011 by the newspaper, while he intended to run for vice-president of the Republic.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur acknowledges that this unfortunate court decision against journalists Tafur and More however, occurs in a context where Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has publicly declared several times that he will respect this right and will not resort to criminal proceedings to inhibit debate on issues of public interest. At the same time, the Congress of the Republic of Peru has analyzed various proposals that would eliminate the crime of defamation, at least for public servants, or replace jail sentences with fines or community service. Concurrently, the Supreme Court of Justice has established guidelines for this subject and in recent decisions has revised criminal convictions for defamation issued to current or former public servants.


This Office has expressed on numerous occasions its concern over the charges of criminal defamation brought against those who have denounced or criticized public officials. The tenth principle of the IACHR Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression states: "Privacy laws should not inhibit or restrict investigation and dissemination of information of public interest. 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 for Freedom of Expression was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.


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