Press freedom suffered notable setbacks in 2011. In the run-up to the presidential election in June, journalists reported an alarming rise in attacks and threats in response to campaign coverage. In northern Peru, one journalist was murdered in reprisal for his work, while two others were killed under unclear circumstances. Trial courts convicted four journalists under archaic criminal defamation laws, with one reporter imprisoned for more than six months until his conviction was overturned on appeal. President Ollanta Humala pledged upon assuming office in July to be a “defender of human rights, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression.” In July, Congress passed a bill that would eliminate jail terms for defamation, but by late year the president had not signed the measure into law.
Broadcast journalist Paul Segundo Garay Ramírez was jailed on April 19 on charges of defaming a prosecutor in Coronel Portillo. He was initially sentenced to a three-year prison term. On October 28, the Supreme Court tossed out the conviction, citing flawed evidence. A key audiotape, the court found, had not been properly authenticated.
Garay case timeline:
April 19: Garay was imprisoned on charges of defaming Coronel Portillo prosecutor Agustín López Cruz in an undated radio clip.
July 27: An appeals court in Ucayali upheld the sentence but reduced the prison term to 18 months.
September 19: Chief prosecutor Pablo Sánchez Velarde issued a report that found flaws in the case evidence, including lack of proof that the voice on the recording belonged to Garay.
October 29: Garay was freed after 193 days in prison, a day after the Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
In addition to Garay, three other journalists were convicted in 2011 on criminal charges of defaming public officials in critical news coverage. Peru's defamation laws are increasingly out of step with regional trends.
A year of defamation cases:
July: Reporter Hans Francisco Andrade Chávez was convicted on charges of defaming an official in Chepén; an appeals court overturned his conviction in October on procedural grounds.
September: TV and radio station owner Gaston Medina was given a suspended prison sentence and fined on charges of defaming a local congressman.
November: Broadcast journalist Teobaldo Meléndez Fachín received a suspended prison sentence and fine on charges of defaming a local mayor.
A growing regional consensus to decriminalize defamation:
2009: Costa Rica repealed prison terms for criminal defamation.
2009: Argentina revoked criminal defamation provisions regarding information of public interest.
2009: Brazil voided the 1967 Press Law, which imposed harsh penalties for libel and slander.
CPJ documented eight cases in May in which journalists were assaulted, threatened, or harassed in response to their coverage of the June 5 presidential race.
Television reporter Pedro Alfonso Flores Silva, who had covered local government corruption in the northwestern province of Casma, was shot on September 6 and died two days later. Two other journalists were killed in 2011 in unclear circumstances. Radio host Julio Castillo Narváez was gunned down on May 3, and José Oquendo Reyes was killed on September 14. CPJ was investigating the murders to determine whether they were work-related.
7: Peruvian journalists murdered in direct relation to their work since 1992
3: Fatalities in 1992
1: Fatality in 1993
1: Fatality in 2004
1: Fatality in 2007
1: Fatality in 2011
In two cases, Peruvian courts ruled that Congress had violated the country's access-to-information law by withholding records related to alleged malfeasance by members. Courts ruled that Congress must turn over information requested by the regional press group Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS). Congress had not complied with either ruling by late year.
7-12: Days allotted by Peruvian law to process information requests.
4: Years it took IPYS to win a court ruling confirming that the public should have access to a Congressional debate that led to sanctions against a member.
2: Years it took to win a court ruling confirming the public should have access to records concerning an allegedly unauthorized Congressional payment.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.