Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peru: Journalists from the same paper sentenced in separate defamation cases


On 21 October 2013, Esther Valenzuela Zorrilla, editor of the newspaper La Calle of Ayacucho, and Asencio Canchari Sulca, a contributor for the same paper, were sentenced for alleged defamation in separate cases. They were both accused in relation to their monitoring of irregularities in public works. Ayacucho is a region of central Peru.

Valenzuela, who also works for Wari radio station's news program "Estación Noticiosa", was sentenced, by Judge Rigoberto Dueñas Carhuapoma of Ayacucho's First Criminal Court, to a two-year suspended prison sentence and the payment of 25000 nuevos soles (approx. US$9,000) in civil damages plus a fine of 1050 nuevos soles (approx. US$380) to be paid to the State. She was accused by the former president of the regional government of Ayacucho, Ernesto Molina Chávez, whom the journalist criticized in several issues of La Calle in 2010, in regard to the bidding process for the construction of a regional hospital.

Canchari Sulca was sentenced by Judge Asunción Canchari, of Ayacucho's Fourth Criminal Court, to two years of imprisonment and the payment of 3000 nuevos soles (approx. US$1090) in civil damages to Magno Sosa Rojas, current departmental dean of the journalists' association and former adviser to the current president of the regional government. The journalist questioned the current regional president of Ayacucho, Wilfredo Oscorima Núñez, about his broken promise of a new regional hospital. He also questioned a group of journalists who allegedly shielded the regional president and failed to denounce him, Sosa Rojas among them.

According to a La Calle journalist, the sentences were issued a few days after they were announced in a press conference by the president of the Superior Court of Justice of Ayacucho, Tony Rolando Changaray. Valenzuela believes it is a form of simple intimidation against the criticisms issued from the newspaper and the radio station's news program.

Esther Valenzuela told IPYS that they have already appealed the sentences. She is still afraid, however, because other lawsuits against the media outlet are pending. One is the result of an accusation of alleged irregular tender in an irrigation project linked to the regional government which involves Manuel Ventura Mariluz and Rosario Romaní Días, who are also La Calle journalists.

IPYS regrets that journalists are so easily accused when they perform their duty monitoring the authorities and that the judges do not analyze the criticisms made of the public sector, sentencing the journalists perhaps disproportionately.