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Two journalists accused by police of defamation; one of them also convicted of defaming former mayor, ordered to pay damages

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 30 October 2007, journalists José Bazán and Jaime Vásquez Valcárcel were accused of defamation by police officers Ismael Vásquez Colchado and Julio Carrasco Peña, of the Criminal Investigations Division of the National Police. According to the lawsuit, the journalists accused the policemen of being involved in a September 2007 robbery at a company in the Loreto region, northeastern Peru. The plaintiffs are asking for 1 million soles (approx. US$330,000) in damages.

Vásquez Valcárcel is the editor of the newspaper "Pro&Contra" and director of Canal 21 television station's programme "Contrapunteo"; Bazán hosts Canal 27 television station's programme "Contraste Regional". Bazán told IPYS that on 20 October, as he was broadcasting his programme, Rodolfo Daza Muñoz, a.k.a. "Fito", telephoned from prison where he is serving a sentence for the robbery in question. Daza Muñoz revealed that the policemen owned the weapons used in the robbery. Vásquez Valcárcel, in turn, also published that account of the events.

The journalists told IPYS that they had urged the authorities to investigate the allegation. According to Bazán, he also sought the policemen's comments on the events several times, but they refused to talk with him.

Vásquez Valcárcel has also been recently battling another defamation lawsuit. On 25 October, he was convicted and sentenced to a 3-year suspended prison term and payment of 10,000 soles (approx. US$3200) for the crimes of slander and defamation against Juan Carlos Águila Cárdenas, the former mayor of Maynas, a province located in the Loreto region.

The verdict and sentence were issued by judge María Romero Ríos, of the Superior Court of Justice in Loreto. The former mayor had filed the suit against Vásquez Valcárcel on 21 June 2006.

According to the judge's ruling, the journalist had made a groundless accusation that the former mayor had personally benefited from municipal council funds. Vásquez Valcárcel told IPYS that he will be appealing the sentence.

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