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Journalist in Peru found guilty of aggravated defamation, warned about conduct

On May 3, 2016, judge Susana Coronado Zegarra ruled that journalist Rafael Leon was criminally responsible on charges of aggravated defamation filed against him by Martha Meier Miró Quesada, former editor of the newspaper El Comercio, but did not impose a sentence. The incident occurred in Lima, the capital.

The judge for the 42nd Criminal Court for the Superior Court of Lima also ruled that Leon must subject himself to rules of conduct for one year and was ordered to pay civil damages of 6,000 soles (US $ 2,000).

Roberto Pereira, counsel for the journalist, said that the judge's decision is "dangerous".

"The criteria used by the judge is contrary to the standards of freedom of expression observed around the world, and which have also been established the Peruvian Supreme Court. It is a precedent that not only affects Rafael León, but journalism as a whole in the country”, Pereira said.

In June 2014, Leon wrote an op-ed piece for Caretas magazine in which he satirized an opinion column written by Meier and published by daily El Comercio. Meier's article —who was the newspaper editor at the time— contained many criticisms against the former mayor of Lima. Leon came to the mayor's defense and Meier denounced him for defamation, misogyny and even for her eventual firing from El Comercio.

The journalist and his lawyer told IPYS that they have already filed an appeal to challenge the ruling before a higher court.

IPYS is concerned about the sentence against Leon, as it sets a bad precedent for freedom of expression in Peru.

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