Court quashes defamation conviction on appeal, spares journalist jail time

29.03.2012 - Lima - Reporters Sans Frontières

The producer of the programme “Ribereña Noticias” for northeastern regional radio and TV station La Ribereña, Meléndez was given a three-year suspended prison sentence on 7 November with the proviso that he would have to serve the sentence if he failed to pay the 30,000 soles (11,000 dollars) in damages demanded by the plaintiff.

The lawsuit was brought by Alto Amazonas province mayor Juan Daniel Mesía Camus over reports raising questions about contracts he had awarded to companies that financed his election campaign.

“This is unquestionably a victory for freedom of information and we hail Meléndez’s tenacity in the face of all the pressure put on him,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Will the hoped-for decriminalization of media offences finally be realized in the wake of this favourable ruling? [We urge President Ollanta Humala](,40709.html) to lose no more time in promulgating the criminal code amendment abolishing jail sentences for defamation, which congress passed in July 2011.”

Another provincial TV and radio journalist, Paul Garay Ramírez, spent six months in prison in 2011 on [a defamation charge](,40105.html).

The favourable decision in the Meléndez case was issued on 19 March by a criminal high court in San Martín province, which overturned his conviction on the grounds that it found no “aggravating” circumstances and that insufficient evidence was produced to demonstrate the defamatory nature of Meléndez’s claims.

Although relieved, Meléndez realizes that another criminal defamation action could be brought against him at any time. He said corruption is still widespread and it explains why politicians are so ready to sue journalists. It would also explain why the decriminalization of media offences is taking so long.

Categories: International issues, Press Releases, South America

About The Author

Freedom of expression and of information will always be the world’s most important freedom. If journalists were not free to report the facts, denounce abuses and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of children-soldiers, defend women’s rights, or preserve our environment? In some countries, torturers stop their atrocious deeds as soon as they are mentioned in the media. In others, corrupt politicians abandon their illegal habits when investigative journalists publish compromising details about their activities. Still elsewhere, massacres are prevented when the international media focuses its attention and cameras on events. Freedom of information is the foundation of any democracy. Yet almost half of the world’s population is still denied it.

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