IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018

Medellín, Colombia

There has been experienced in this period a deep political crisis that has undermined the credibility of the political class and the institutions. In this context, only comparable to what occurred in the late '90s, the role of the press has gained importance on revealing the extent of one of the cases of corruption, linked to the Lava Jato (Car Wash) operation, the most important in the recent history of the country. This has given rise to discomfort in the political class, which has resorted to various mechanisms of pressure to attempt to influence the editorial stance of the media.

One of these mechanisms is the "anti-press" regulation. In this 2016-2021 legislative period there have been submitted at least 10 bills that go against press freedom, the most emblematic case being the so-called "Gag Law," submitted in November last year to prohibit state advertising in privately-owned media.

There have also persisted threats to and attacks upon journalists as a consequence of the investigations carried out to reveal cases of corruption or the commission of serious offenses such as drug trafficking or illegal mining.

There continues legal harassment of journalists and news media that are the subject of criminal complaints for investigating and denouncing criminal acts, which rekindles the debate on decriminalization of offenses against honor and the need for self-regulation mechanisms.

The "Gag Law" seeks to prohibit public bodies from being able to contract advertising with privately-owned media. The initiative, submitted in November 2017 by Congressman Mauricio Mulder, was approved with unusual speed during the parliamentary recess, after being rejected on two occasions during its regular process.

The issue was seen by the Executive Branch and currently is in Congress's Transport and Communications Committee. If adopted it will represent a regression, as it would leave without effect a law in place since 2006 that adequately regulates the placement of official advertising. For that reason it has been the subject of questioning on the part of the Ombudsman, of the former chair of the Council of Ministers, of the president of the Judicial Branch and of national organizations such as the Peruvian Press Council, the IPYS and the National Radio and Television Society. It also generated reactions of the IACHR's Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, who visited the country in March, after requesting the Foreign Ministry for information, as well as the IAPA, Article 19 and Freedom House.

Other anti-press bills seek to punish the unauthorized dissemination of chats, conversations of brief messaging, setting a punishment of privation of freedom of up to two years, for publishing "a telephone communication or the recording of it." Another one seeks to punish with imprisonment of three to six years the dissemination of intimate videos without consent. Another one establishes that those convicted and investigated for offenses of corruption against the government cannot hold high office in a news media. Another one requires print news media to give 2% of their annual sales to a "national social security fund of a paperboy or newspaper salesman," which in practice is an additional tax.

There are also initiatives to amend various articles of the Radio and Television Law that would extend family time to public places and declare of national interest the promotion of culture through the media in programs during family hour.

In issues of legal harassment Miguel Arévalo Ramírez, a businessman investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for alleged drug trafficking, late last year submitted three complaints of the offense of aggravated defamation against the news media, La República, El Comercio, América Televisión and WillaxTv, and against journalists Óscar Castilla, Edmundo Cruz, Cecilia Valenzuela and Miguel Ramírez. Arévalo bases his denunciation on journalistic investigations that report on alleged links to drug trafficking.

In the fist case, which since October 2017 is before the 11th Criminal Court of the Lima High Court, Arévalo charges journalists Óscar Castilla, executive director of, and Edmundo Cruz, journalist with La República, and seeks a sentence of three years in prison and civil damages of $10 million. He also asked that Ojo-Pú be included as third party civilly responsible and that it be punished with a two-year suspension.

In the second proceedings Arévalo again filed a complaint against Óscar Castilla, and against the Interior Ministry's anti-drugs lawyer, Sonia Medina Calvo, and journalist Cecilia Valenzuela, seeking for the three punishment of three and six years in prison and civil damages of $100 million. The denunciation, where is included as responsible civil third party, as well as the newspapers La República and El Comercio, and the channels Compañía Peruana de Radiodifusión (América Televisión) and Agencia Perú Producciones (WillaxTv), is in the 29th Criminal Court of Lima since October for judgment.

Arévalo also submitted a third denunciation against journalist Miguel Ramírez, former editor of the investigation unit of El Comercio. He is seeking punishment of six years imprisonment and payment of $100 million by way of civil damages. In the denunciation, which was sent to the 21st Criminal Court of Lima and is up for judgment since October, Arévalo asks that there be ordered the suspension for two years of the column "Stories never told," which is written by the journalist in the newspaper El Trome, of the El Comercio group, and the inclusion as civilly responsible third parties El Comercio and

Regarding attacks, on January 6 the vehicle of Juan Ferdinand Berrios Jiménez, journalist of Radio Tahuamanu, was set on fire. He denounced before the National Association of Journalists of Peru that the event occurred at dawn at the door of his home and it had as its objective to scare him for the denunciations that he made public against the mayor of the district of Iberia in Tahuamanu province in Madre de Dios.

Previously attacked was journalist Manuel Calloquispe in the district of Mazuko, in Madre de Dios, when he was covering a police operation of seizure of chemical goods and gasoline used for illegal mining.

The request for defense by eight journalists in November 2013 (Exp. 35583-2013 4th Lima Constitutional Court) against Empress Editora El Comercio publishing company on violation of rights to freedom of expression and freedom of access to diverse information; for the acquisition that it made of the shares of Empresa Periodística Nacional (today Prensmart); it is still not resolved in court of first instance by the Peruvian Judicial Branch, after more than four years, even though it is an urgent protection process.

In this regard reports have been presented before the General Assembly since October 2003 and the General Assembly has pronounced through Resolution of Mexico 2016, calling upon the Peruvian Judicial Branch to resolve this controversy as soon as possible, a request that has been reiterated through Resolutions of the General Assembly in March and October 2017. However, there have been no results.