IAPA calls tendency to penalize opinions in Peru 'absurd'


It also condemns attack on journalist in Honduras

MIAMI, Florida (May 4, 2016)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today declared that the conviction of journalist Rafael León Rodríguez on a charge of defamation, learned yesterday (May 3), confirms the "absurd" tendency to penalize opinions in Peru, contravening international jurisprudence standards concerning freedom of the press and of expression.

Judge Susana Coronado of the Lima 42nd Criminal Court punished the journalist, known as Rafo León, putting him on probation for one year – in which he must each month sign a control sheet, notify any change of address and not leave the country without prior notice – and ordering him to pay $1,800 damages.

The person filing suit against him is former El Comercio editor Martha Meier Miró Quesada, who felt dishonored by an op-ed article by León published in the magazine Caretas in 2014.

Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, expressed his displeasure at the "absurd" ruling, declaring that "while on World Press Freedom Day we were making an assessment of the respect for this fundamental right in the countries of the Americas we deplore the fact that at that very moment a Peruvian court was restoring the crime of opinion."

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, urged the Peruvian judiciary to adjust itself to Inter-American jurisprudence and to the principles on freedom of expression contained in the Declaration of Chapultepec and in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

After learning of the conviction León declared that it "puts all journalists in a position of vulnerability."

On April 18 journalist Fernando Valencia, former editor of Diario 16 newspaper, was given a suspended sentence of one year and eight months in prison on a charge of "defaming" former president Alan García (1985-1990 and 2006-2011) and payment of damages amounting to some $30,000.


In another development the IAPA condemned an attack on journalist Félix Molina committed on Monday (May 2) in Tegucigalpa. Molina, a freelance reporter, was shot four times in the legs and was taken to the Tegucigalpa University School Hospital and is now out of danger. The reason for the attack on the journalist, who is under police protection, was not immediately known.

The IAPA report on the state of press freedom in Honduras, presented in April during the organization's Midyear Meeting in the Dominican Republic, declared that journalistic activity in the Central American country continues to be "at high risk due to the aggressions, attacks and murders of journalists or people linked to news media," which are seen to be aggravated by the impunity that is maintained in "almost all of these cases."

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.