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Journalists from defunct paper report judicial harassment in Peru

On 18 November 2013, Pablo O'Brien, Gino Márquez and Óscar Rodríguez, main editor, assistant editor and investigative journalist of the defunct newspaper El Sol de Los Andes, which was sold in several cities of central Peru, were to receive their sentences in a case of alleged defamation, one of the six cases they are involved in because of their journalistic work. They were notified by Judge Marco Antonio Ancco, of the Fourth Criminal Court of the Junín Region in central Peru.

O'Brien told IPYS that the cases for which they have been sued are related to reports published in the newspaper about the deaths of several taxi drivers and the existence of a judicial process that involved several police officers, some articles about the brother of a presidential adviser, and an investigation into apparent irregularities in an exam for the promotion of officials within the Judiciary of Huancayo.

As well as the journalists, the lawsuits also involved the company that owned the paper. The legal processes ultimately meant that the company could not continue editing the newspaper. Its bank accounts were embargoed and the paper had to close in 2012.

Although several of the processes had already resulted in acquittals, these were revoked in March even though they had been based on the obvious lack of criminal responsibility in the matters that led to the lawsuits for defamation. The journalists have reported that the sentences included statements that induced the first instance judges to issue convictions.

According to what the journalists and their attorneys said to IPYS, there were serious irregularities in several of the accusations, the processes and the sentences. “For example, the fact that the sentences that revoked the acquittals for two cases argue that as the undersigned did not make a preliminary statement, the acquittal is null and void, and that this is compounded by the fact that they were not made public (although they were acquittals)” said O'Brien.

According to Gino Márquez, two of the accusers are a judge and a court secretary of the Superior Court of Junín and the accused were processed in the same tribunal where the court secretary works.

O'Brien is also concerned that he no longer lives in Huancayo, headquarters of the Superior Court of Junín.

IPYS regrets that the Judiciary should hound the journalists of the defunct newspaper undertaking a disproportionate persecution using the law with no apparent basis to penalize them.

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