Journalist gets jail sentence for defamation, second case this year

Oswaldo Pereyra Moreno, the host of the “Hora 13” show on Radio Macarena in the northern town of San Lorenzo, was sentenced to serve a year in prison and pay 10,000 soles (3,500 dollars) in damages on 9 June in a defamation suit over a report about alleged sexual abuse of a minor.

“This regressive sentence has dealt another major blow to press freedom in Peru, where La Voz de Bagua Grande radio has been subject to an arbitrary broadcasting ban for the past year,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This means there are now two journalists in jail for press offences in Peru although imprisonment does not repair the harm done in defamation cases.”

The press freedom organisation added: “It is puzzling that Pereyra is the only journalist to be convicted in connection with this case although other journalists covered it. It is also strange that he is already in detention because execution of his sentence should have been stayed pending the outcome of his appeal.”

Pereyra reported in one of his programmes in September 2009 that a 14-year-old girl had been sexually abused by her stepfather, José Montenegro, and then forced to abort in a pharmacy. Montenegro sued Pereyra for defamation but not journalist María Isabel Pérez, who wrote a similar report for the newspaper La Región.

The judge ruled that Pereyra defamed Montenegro by naming him in his report. Pereyra disputes the court’s verdict and intends to appeal. He is nonetheless already in police custody and is due to be transferred to a prison next week to begin serving his sentence.

This is the second time since the start of the year that a Peruvian journalist has been jailed on a defamation charges. Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco the editor of the regional weekly Nor Oriente, was given a one-year sentence on 12 January in case marred by major irregularities.