HomeNewsBriefPeru Defamation Lawsuits Are Chilling Coverage of Crime and Corruption
BRIEF

Peru Defamation Lawsuits Are Chilling Coverage of Crime and Corruption

HUMAN RIGHTS / 8 NOV 2017 BY ANGELIKA ALBALADEJO EN

Several Peruvian news outlets are facing a slew of lawsuits that highlight how Peru's harsh penalties against defamation are creating a chilling effect on media coverage of organized crime and corruption.

Miguel Arévalo Ramírez, known by the alias "Eteco," recently filed criminal defamation lawsuits against half a dozen news outlets, four journalists and a counternarcotic official who reported over the course of the last year on his alleged ties to drug trafficking, Ojo-Publico.com reported.

The news reports published by Ojo-Publico.com, La República, El Comercio, América Televisión and Agencia Perú Producciones were based on official documents detailing an investigation by Peru's counternarcotic police and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). InSight Crime cited and republished some of this reporting.

According to the official investigation, Arévalo is suspected of trafficking cocaine beginning in the 1980s. His cousin, David Bazán Arévalo, was also a subject of the investigation, and was arrested in July on charges of financing and supplying weapons to the Shining Path terrorist group during his tenure as mayor of the northern town of Tocache.

The series of lawsuits against the media companies is one of the biggest of its kind in Peru's history. Arévalo is demanding $210 million in fines and several years of jail time for the journalists involved. However, these lawsuits are not the first launched by the suspected drug trafficker.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled in favor of Arévalo in a separate lawsuit against Google and many of the same news outlets. The judge in that case ordered the outlets to "remove, eliminate and delete" and "abstain from future publication" of Arévalo's personal information and images.

Two years ago, Arévalo also sued Corina de la Cruz, a local radio journalist and former mayor of Tocache, for airing an interview about him. De la Cruz was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 10 million soles (more than $3 million).

Arévalo's lawsuits also follow on the heels of several similar cases in recent years.

In 2004, Fernando Zevallos, alias "Lunarejo," who is now serving 25 years in prison for his role as a drug kingpin, sued El Comercio for $200 million for their coverage of his ties to drug trafficking. Rodolfo Orellana Rengifo, who is currently on trial for his alleged role as the leader of a massive corruption network, also launched more than a dozen failed lawsuits in recent years against news outlets and journalists for their coverage of his presumed involvement in organized crime.

InSight Crime Analysis

Lawsuits against news outlets and journalists covering corruption and organized crime, like those recently sweeping through Peru, have a concerning chilling effect and could limit access to accurate information about some of the most significant security threats in Latin America.

Every country in Latin America and the Caribbean, except for Jamaica, uses criminal laws to punish defamation, which the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says creates a chilling effect on the press.

In Peru, the CPJ has documented an "alarming use of outdated criminal defamation provisions to target critical journalists." Such lawsuits have been used successfully several times in recent years to silence reporting on government corruption and links to organized crime.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

Zuliana Lainez, the Secretary General of the National Association of Peruvian Journalists (Asociación Nacional de Periodistas del Perú - ANP), told InSight Crime that these lawsuits have become a tool in recent years for powerful elites to "block" critical reporting by throwing journalists in jail or demanding exorbitant fines, which have at times shut down small, local news outlets.

"Without a doubt, in Peru we have tremendous concern, not just right now but for many years, that defamation lawsuits are being used in reality as instruments to generate fear and silence investigations and critical voices," Lainez said.

Lainez added that while Arévalo's lawsuits have drawn a great deal of attention because of the massive fines he is seeking and the wide range of news outlets and journalists involved, there are many other similar defamation cases currently working their way through local courts in Peru.

According to Lainez, defamation lawsuits have been "misused" for the "judicial persecution" of journalists, but there is no political will in congress to change the law.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

PERU / 23 SEP 2019

A 400-page document by Peru's Shining Path guerrillas details the group's elaborate plans to increase drug trafficking operations and attacks…

PERU / 2 AUG 2016

Nearly one hundred members of Peru's national police are under investigation for their alleged participation in a series of extrajudicial…

PERU / 31 AUG 2012

Five Peruvian soldiers were killed in an attack reportedly carried out by the VRAE-based faction of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.