Peru journalist critical of government jailed for defamation

The founding director of a weekly magazine in Bagua, in Peru’s Amazonas department, was sentenced to a year in prison on Wednesday in a defamation lawsuit dating back to 2005.

Journalist Alejandro Carrascal of Nor Oriente magazine said he was unaware of the lawsuit filed against him by the former director of Bagua’s Superior Institute of Technology, Víctor Feria, when he was arrested on Monday, daily La República reported. For his part, Feria told the Coordinadora Nacional del Radio, or CNR, that he was surprised by the sentence delivered by Judge Francisco Miranda, saying he had essentially abandoned the lawsuit more than a year ago.

National and international press freedom organizations say there are numerous irregularities in Carrascal’s case. The Peruvian Institute for Press and Society, or IYIP, said the case is likely related to the journalist’s well-known criticism of the government, including its handling of last June’s violent confrontation in Bagua province between some 5,000 protestors and Peruvian soldiers and police.

The conflict left six natives, four Bagua residents, and 11 police dead. The protestors were demanding, among other things, the repeal of several Executive decrees enacted in 2008 by President Alan García to provide attractive investment conditions for the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States.

“There is suspicion that the case is political revenge against the director of the weekly magazine, known for his critical editorial line against the government,” said Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based international organization that advocates for freedom of the press. “Among the causes that Alejandro Carrascal defended are indigenous rights and the protection of the Amazon.”

Peru’s National Association of Journalists, or ANP, said Carrascal was recently questioning the authenticity of a photograph that has emerged in Peru of Police Officer Felipe Bazán, who disappeared during last years conflict in Bagua. Carrascal’s son, Ivan, is reportedly the attorney for Asterio Kujupat, an indigenous protestor who is accused of killing Bazán.

In the same region, the Peruvian government closed the community radio station La Voz de Bagua. The station is accused of inciting violence during the protests.

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