Provincial newspaper editor Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco was released from prison on 18 June on the orders of the supreme court in Lima after serving five months of a one-year jail sentence imposed last January in a trial marked by flagrant irregularities. He was convicted of libelling a local official.
The editor of Nor Oriente, a weekly based in Bagua in the Amazonian region of Utcumbamba, Carrascal is a staunch defender of the local indigenous community. He been targeted by the authorities every since rioting that led to the arbitrary closure of Bagua-based community radio station La Voz de Bagua Grande June 2009.
His release is clearly good news but what Peru now needs to do is decriminalise press offenses. Another Peruvian journalist, Oswaldo Pereyra Moreno is still being held on a defamation charge and must also be released.
13.01.2010 - Editor of Amazonian weekly gets one-year sentence for defamation
Reporters Without Borders condemns the one-year jail sentence that a court in Bagua, in the northeastern Amazonian province of Utcumbamba, passed yesterday on Alejandro Carrascal Carrasco, the editor of the regional weekly Nor Oriente, on a change of “aggravated defamation” in a case dating back to 2005.
Carrascal fainted when the court issued its verdict and was rushed to hospital. The sentencing took place in his absence. He is now in Bagua’s San Humberto prison.
“This is the second case of a well-known Peruvian journalist being imprisoned for defamation, following that Magaly Medina, who was given a five-month sentence in October 2008,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Carrascal’s trial seems to have been marred by irregularities. He says he was not notified of the warrant for his arrest and he was in hospital when the sentence was issued.”
“There is every reason to suspect that this is really an act of political revenge against the editor of a publication that is very critical of the authorities,” press freedom organisation continued. “Carrascal defended the indigenous population and did all he could to protect the Amazon. This case highlights the urgent need for press offences to be decriminalised.”
Carrascal was widely respected in the Bagua area because of the stands taken by his newspaper, which is distributed throughout the department of Amazonas. He was convicted of defaming a local official, Victor Feria.
Local journalists and relatives of Carrascal condemned his conviction as an act of “revenge.” The National Association of Journalists (ANP) protested against his “arbitrary detention.”
Radio La Voz de Bagua, a local community radio station, has been closed since 8 June for allegedly inciting violence during the rioting by indigenous groups that took place at the start of that month. Carrascal had criticised the government position at the time.