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Decriminalisation of press offences a major issue in 2012

(RSF/IFEX) - 5 January 2012 - An end to prison terms and exorbitant fines for crimes of defamation, slander and libel remains a key objective for the overall improvement in freedom of information in the southern countries of South America. In this respect, Argentina and Uruguay have shown the way.

However, the step remains to be taken by Ecuador, which is still under the influence of the El Universo case, Bolivia, Colombia and Chile.

Decriminalization is urgent in Peru, where a promising reform of the criminal code approved in July 2011 has not yet been enacted. Will President Ollanta Humala carry out the commitments he gave to the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) just over a month before he was elected on 5 May?

Reporters Without Borders notes that, in contrast to the head of state's personal wishes, too many legal proceedings and vexatious applications continue to hamper the free flow of information and opinion, encouraging self-censorship on the part of journalists and bloggers.

Bureaucratic harassment is particularly evident when an article or a report criticises a politician, highlights cases of corruption and conflicts of interest or examines allegations of collusion – sometimes borne out — between some members of the security forces and organized crime.

2011 was a fateful year for the Peruvian press, with the murders of three of its members and the six-month detention of radio and television journalist Paul Garay Ramírez, wrongfully convicted of defaming a prosecutor.

Other cases still pending require the country's highest authorities to keep their promises. The future of freedom of information and the right to criticise depends on their outcome.

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