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Blogger given unprecedented maximum sentence

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 29 October 2010, José Alejandro Godoy, journalist and editor of the political blog http://www.desdeeltercerpiso.com , was sentenced by Judge Flor La Rosa La Rosa, of Lima's 33rd Criminal Court, to a suspended three-year prison term, a fine of 300,000 soles (approx. US$107,000) and 120 days of community service. This is the maximum sentence that can be possibly applied in a case of aggravated defamation, according to Roberto Pereira, the defendant's attorney, who has stated that the sentence will be appealed.

The sentence is the result of a complaint filed by Jorge Mufarech, a minister during the government of former president Alberto Fujimori and a former congressman during the government of Alejandro Toledo. The case goes back to 13 August 2009, when the former congressman filed a complaint against Godoy because of an article published in the blog Desde el Tercer Piso. The journalist referred in it, through links to stories published by other media outlets, to certain accusations of crimes that Mufarech had had to deal with in the past.

Mufarech sent a letter insisting that Godoy delete any references to the alleged crimes. Godoy refused, arguing that they should be included, because they were of public interest and because the articles he referred to had been published before his blog entries on the cases. Even though Mufarech's letter was published on the blog, as well as Godoy's reply to it, Mufarech accused the journalist of aggravated defamation.

Pereira argues that the fact that Godoy fulfilled his duty by quoting all his sources and granting Mufarech the right of reply, exposes the evident unconstitutionality of the sentence, which is not supported by any legal arguments.

The lack of legal substantiation, the fact that the ruling validates all of the plaintiff's demands, as well as its excessive nature, constitute a clear attempt against freedom of expression, unprecedented in the history of Peru. It is also the first sentence of this type to ever be handed down against a blogger in the country.

IPYS condemns the judge's ruling and expresses the hope that it will be overturned during the appeal process.

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