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Journalist convicted of defamation; journalists assaulted by striking workers in Yurimaguas

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 4 August 2007, the First Transitory Criminal Bench of the Supreme Court convicted journalist Juan Carlos Tafur of aggravated defamation, over articles published when he was editor of the newspaper "Correo". The court suspended the journalist's prison sentence in exchange for his compliance with certain rules of conduct. The court set civil reparations at 50,000 soles (approx. US$ 16,000) in favour of the plaintiff.

The lawsuit was filed in July 2003 by Judge Nancy Sánchez Hidalgo, after "Correo" published three investigations that, quoting anonymous police sources, reported the escape from the country of drug trafficker Miguel Ángel Dávila Tiznado, after the judge ruled to revoke his preventive detention during his trial for illegal drug trafficking.

The articles also stated that the judge and the drug trafficker had traveled together to Spain, but the judge was able to prove that her trip was part of a series of academic activities approved by the judiciary.

During the trial against Tafur, IPYS presented arguments calling for the fine to be proportional to the offence, taking into account that the sentences imposed in a first and second instance were also suspended, clearly indicating lack of malice in the conduct attributed to Tafur. IPYS also maintained that no judge denied the defendant's alleged reason for publishing the investigations: public interest. For this reason, IPYS considers the ruling to be disproportionate and lacking in reasonable criteria, contradicting the Constitutional Tribunal's jurisprudence on such matters and setting a terrible precedent for journalism involving investigations into public authorities, especially judges.

In a separate incident, on 28 September 2007, a group of workers of the Apoyo Santa Gema Hospital, who have been on strike for 20 days, attacked several journalists who were attempting to enter the hospital with a patient who needed urgent medical attention. The demonstrators did not allow the patient to enter and they insulted and struck the journalists. The event took place in Yurimaguas, Loreto region, in northeastern Peru.

The journalists who suffered the greatest abuse were Canal 6's César Viena Chávez and Johny Pezo Tello of the radio station Doble A.

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