Journalist sentenced to one year in prison for "aggravated defamation"
(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 13 Jan. 2010 - A Peruvian court sentenced newspaper editor Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco to one year in prison for "aggravated defamation" yesterday, in a verdict that local media freedom experts have slammed as retaliation for the journalist's critical reporting.
The heavy sentence stemmed from a 2004 complaint brought against Carrasco, director of the Bagua-based weekly Nor Oriente, by the former director of an educational institution.
Carrasco had criticised local authorities following last year's violent clashes near Bagua between indigenous protestors and security forces that left dozens of people dead.
Members of Peru's national police arrested the journalist on Monday, 11 January, and held him overnight pending yesterday's verdict. Carrasco claims that, before his arrest, authorities gave him no notification that the court decision was due.
Carrasco was ultimately absent from court when his sentence was announced, having fainted earlier during the hearing.
Local media organisation the Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú (the National Association of Peruvian Journalists) condemned Carrasco's arrest on Monday as "yet another violation of freedom of expression and a threat to the free exercise of journalism."
And the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, a Lima-based media freedom monitor, quoted journalistic sources close to Carrasco as stating that the verdict was "vengeance" for his newspaper's "line of journalism clearly in favour of the indigenous struggle."
Carrasco appealed to a constitutional tribunal in early 2009 to have the case against him annulled, claiming that the judge who decided that proceedings should go ahead did not do so objectively, given Nor Oriente's criticism of his professional conduct.
"Journalists must never be imprisoned for practising their profession," said IPI Director, David Dadge. "We call on Peru's authorities to release Carrasco immediately and to abolish its criminal defamation laws. Grievances should be pursued through voluntary professional bodies, or through appropriate civil defamation laws."
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