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In Peru, the condemnation of a journalist for defamation arouses indignation

Four days after the sentencing of a journalist and the publisher of his book to a two-year suspended prison sentence, Monday, January 10, for the unauthorized biography of the politician César Acuña – Peruvian entrepreneur twice candidate for the presidential election – the indignation does not fall in Peru. Journalists’ associations have unanimously denounced a « evil and historic precedent against freedom of expression ».

Accused of « aggravated defamation », Christopher Acosta, a recognized investigative journalist, and his publisher, Jeronimo Pimentel, director for Peru of the Penguin Random House publishing house, were also ordered to pay compensation of nearly 400,000 soles (around 90,000 euros) .

Judge Raul Jesus Vega estimated that 30 sentences contained in the work Plata como cancha (which could be translated as “money as if it were raining”) – mostly quotations from third parties – represent a « crime against honour » and attack the dignity of the complainant. Many voices have been raised to denounce the muzzling of the press. The NGO Proética of the Transparency International network considered that this judgment « seeks to intimidate investigative journalism ». The American and British embassies joined in the criticism, as did a dozen MPs.

“A parallel justice system”

In his book published in February 2021, whose title is a quote from César Acuña, pronounced during his campaign for his re-election as mayor of Trujillo (north) in 2010, when he promised that once elected the money would abound for his supporters, the journalist aims to reveal, through testimonies and legal documents, the gray areas of the career of one of the most influential businessmen in Peru, and the origin of his fortune.

Founder in 2001 of the Alliance for Progress (right-wing) party which has 15 deputies in Congress, César Acuña is at the head of a capital estimated at several tens of millions of dollars and annual income of more than 16 million (according to his own statement for the 2016 presidential election). He is the founder of three universities, a football club, and holder of around twenty properties. He was previously a deputy (2000-2006), mayor (2006-2014) and governor (2015) in the north of the country. He is the subject of several judicial investigations for illicit enrichment and money laundering.

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In the prologue to his book, Mr. Acosta writes: “If César Acuña were not rich, he would most likely be in prison. Only his fortune allowed him to create a parallel justice system, where millions compensate for his abuses and silence the plaintiffs. »

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