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Judge initiates criminal proceedings against journalist for "inciting violence"

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 7 October 2009, Judge Julio César Aquino Medina, of the Alto Amazonas First Mixed Tribunal, initiated criminal proceedings against journalist Geovanni Acate, the director of Radio Oriente and Canal 8 TV station, stating that his coverage of a May protest by indigenous people incited his audience to violence and public disorder. The incident took place in Yurimaguas, Loreto region, in northeastern Perú.

According to the judge, Acate used the radio station's microphones to incite the demonstrators to unite and support marches, mobilizations and blockages of highways. In this way, he concluded, Acate used the media he directs for political ends to cause public disorder.

However, according to Roberto Pereira, the journalist's attorney, the broadcasting of opinions favoring the right to gather and demonstrate freely cannot be classified as instigation to commit a crime, nor can it be considered to constitute complicity in the commission of any crime that other people may commit while exercising the aforementioned rights.

The journalist's lawyer believes an attempt is being made to criminalize the editorial stance taken by Acate and his media outlets with respect to the protests and strikes carried out by members of the Shawi and Cocama Cocamilla ethnic groups in Yurimagua, which is in opposition to the government's position.

Pereira maintained that Acate's broadcasts represent the legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression and information, and added that nobody may be subjected to criminal proceedings for incidents that do not constitute crimes and that, on the contrary, represent an attempt to inform the public about conflicts within the country.

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