Miami (December 22, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern following the introduction of a bill in Peru that, if approved, would limit, and jeopardize the work of journalists and media on matters of public interest.
Roberto Rock, president of the IAPA and director of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, stated that the bill presented to the Peruvian Congress on December 20 "seeks to criminalize information, which would lead media and journalists to self-censor in fear of reprisals. They are trying to silence the press under the guise of the law."
The political party Peru Libre submitted an initiative to modify Article 131 of the Penal Code, which would increase fines for slander, and Article 132, which raises the punishment for the crime of defamation committed in "books, the press, social media, collective dissemination websites, or other means of social communication" from three to five years in prison.
This proposal, which was already debated and rejected in a second vote in June, will be initially addressed by a congressional committee that will assess whether it should proceed to the plenary session.
On the same day, the Bloque Magisterial proposed another controversial bill that, in the face of local press organizations' criticisms, was withdrawn from discussion, as reported by the local press. However, the official Congress website still shows the project in progress. The initiative proposes amending Article 409 of the Penal Code to penalize the dissemination of reserved, secret, or confidential information with sentences ranging from three to five years in prison, affecting journalistic sources, journalists, and media.
Carlos Jornet, president of the IAPA's Commission on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, said that the approval of the initiative "would represent a serious obstacle to journalistic work and the oversight role that the press must exercise in a democratic society."
Rock and Jornet recalled that a UNESCO report warned about the trend in some countries across the Americas to toughen or reintroduce provisions on slander, defamation, and insult, with a disruptive effect on freedom of expression and the work of journalists.
For several decades, the IAPA has led a campaign in favor of decriminalizing defamation, offenses often invoked by politicians and public figures to silence critical voices. While several countries in the Americas have decriminalized defamation in recent years, others like Peru continue to resort to these archaic laws to silence criticism.
Article 10th of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states: "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." And article 11 makes it clear that "public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society."
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.