Defamation Called 'Dangerous and Inappropriate'

Thursday, 16 October 2008 19:00 Reporters Without Borders Editorial Dept - Free Press

Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday's imprisonment of Magaly Medina, the host of a celebrity gossip show on privately-owned national television station ATV, after she was sentenced by a Lima criminal court to five months in prison for defaming Peruvian soccer star Paolo Guerrero. 

The organisation regards the sentence as totally inappropriate and calls for the decriminalization of press offences.

"It is not our job to say whether we think Guerrero was defamed, although this seems to have been so," Reporters Without Borders said. "But we think it is very dangerous that a prison sentence was passed in this case, especially as it is extremely rare in a country such as Peru, and that it was implemented although Medina filed an appeal, which normally suspends execution of the sentence."

The press freedom organisation added: "Imprisonment in a defamation case not only fails to redress the damage but can also end up harming the plaintiff's reputation. This dangerous and inappropriate prison sentence runs counter to the tendency in countries that belong to the Organisation of American States to decriminalize press offences. We hope Peru will amend its legislation accordingly and that Medina will be quickly released."

Medina was escorted handcuffed from the Lima lawcourt building at around 7 p.m. yesterday, after receiving the five-month jail sentence, and was taken in a prison truck to Chorrillos women's prison. Ney Guerrero Orellana, the producer of Medina's show, "Magaly TeVe," was also incarcerated after getting a three-month sentence in the same case. He and Medina were ordered to pay Guerrero 80,000 soles (19,000 euros) in damages.

The popular and controversial Medina claimed in her show that Guerrero, a striker with the German team Hamburg, surreptitiously skipped a Peruvian national side training session on the eve of a match against Brazil in November 2007 in order to have a date with a young woman. The court ruled in Guerrero's favour after he proved that did go out that day but had Peru coach José del Solar's permission.

Image Courtesy of SurNoticias (Peru)

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