Peru: Proposal Shortens Time for Media to Correct Inexact Information

The Peruvian Congress has begun to debate a bill that shortens the time allowed for “inexact information” to be corrected by the media from 7 to 3 days. The current Penal Code will be modified to include online publications, including websites and blogs. The sentence for these types of offenses may include incarceration for up to three years and can declare the media outlet that published the “inexact information” to be held as third-party liable. Many journalists and bloggers are wondering how this might affect them. First on their list of doubts is who will decide what “inexact information” means, and whether truthful criticism might be declared incorrect by the government making journalists and bloggers potentially liable.

The blog Spacio Libre [es] commends the spirit of togetherness that emerged among the journalists in response to the issue and hopes that it does not lead to infighting:

Pocas veces he visto tanta unión en el gremio periodístico, como hoy, cuando revisando los medios y las columnas de algunos colegas, veo las reacciones frente al proyecto de Ley que la comisión de Constitución presidida por Mercedes Cabanillas, pretende hacer pasar. Dicho proyecto está referido al tema de la rectificación en los medios de comunicación, donde los medios y los periodistas podrán ser responsables hasta de la publicación de opiniones de los entrevistados.

Few times have I seen the journalistic guild so united like I have seen today, when I read the columns and stories from some colleagues, I see their reactions to the bill that the Constitutional commission presided by Mercedes Cabanillas, intends to pass. This bill deals with the topic of correction from the media, where the media and journalists can be responsible for even publishing the opinions of interviewees.

Laura Arroyo of the blog Menos Canas [es] writes about this topic of the responsible third parties:

la mira está en los dueños y directores de los medios. ¿Cómo así? Ahora se incluye en los juicios por injuria o difamación a las empresas. … De esta manera, aquellos propietarios de medios que no quieran verse inundados en un mar de denuncias pueden optar por deshacerse de sus incómodos trabajadores. Buena jugada ¿no? Pero, ¿por qué habría un mar de denuncias por difamación? … este proyecto de ley con sello aprista indica que debe hacerse rectificación por “informaciones inexactas”. Mmmm…¿qué es inexacto? Como escribe César Hildebrandt: “¿Es inexacto o es agraviante decir que el presidente de la República miente cuando inaugura hospitales inexistentes?¿Es inexacto o es agraviante decir que Mercedes Cabanillas es la responsable de 34 muertes que pudieron evitarse?

The focus is on the owners and directors of the media. How so? Now it includes the lawsuits for insults or defamation to companies. … In this manner, those owners of media outlets that do not want to see themselves flooded with a wave of complaints can opt to dispose themselves of their uncomfortable workers. Nice play, right? But why would there be a wave of complaints for defamation? … This bill with the seal from the APRA political party states that there must be correction for “inexact information”. Mmmm. What is inexact? As (journalist) César Hildebrandt writes: Is it inexact or tortious to say that the President lies when he inaugurates hospitals that do not exist? Is it inexact or tortious to say that Mercedes Cabanillas is the one responsible for 34 deaths (in Bagua) that could have been avoided?

Politician and blogger Juan Sheput comments on his blog Mate Pastor [es]:

Tiene sentido pensar que el gobierno teme el destape de varios actos de corrupción. Como los blogs se han escapado del control sumiso que el gobierno ejerce sobre algunos medios que dan vergüenza, pues también pretende controlarlos. Quiere el coro unánime que aplaude al gobierno, como si fuera un corzo de los viejos tiempos de Wong. Quiere que los blogs se conviertan en una sucursal de Andina o Canal 7.

It makes sense to think that the government fears the uncovering of various acts of corruption. As blogs have escaped from the submissive control that the government has over some media and it is embarrassing, and it intends to also control (blogs). The government wants an unianimous chorus that applauds it, as if was the chorus in the old times of (the supermarket owners) the Wong family? It wants for blogs to become a branch of (television stations) Andina or Channel 7.

On the other hand, Francisco Canaza of Apuntes Peruanos [es] does not see that it is so severe and makes some points:

el de corre en nuestro sistema legal como un ejercicio contra un medio de comunicación. … Obviamente: A) No todo sitio web es un “medio de comunicación”, en cuanto empresa o emprendimiento de naturaleza periodística. B) No todos los blogs obececen a los usos y costumbres de la práctica periodística. C) No todos los que escriben en un blog configuran cotidianeidad o ejercicio personal del . Obviamente habrá sitios web que calzen y configuren labor periodística, pero serán los menos. … Es necesario considerar que para la norma vigente, la Ley 26775, y para el sistema normativo peruano, no existe mayor diferencia entre una publicación “física” y otra electrónica.

Otro signo de desconocimiento: se proclama que se ataca a los dueños de medios, al considerarlos “terceros civilmente responsables”. La verdad es que el Código Civil (de 1984, por cierto) ya establece en su artículo 1981 la responsabilidad vicaria. En este concepto se entiende que el empleador es responsable por los daños que genere su subordinado.

the right to correction runs in our legal system as an exercise against a media outlet. … Obviously A) Not every website is part of the “media,” like a business or a journalistic endeavor. B) Not all blogs follow the customs and uses of the journalistic practice. C) Not all who write in a blog do so in the daily exercise of journalism. Obviously there will be websites that fit and follow journalistic work, but they would be in the minority. … It is necessary to consider that for the current standard, the Law 26775, and for the Peruvian regulatory system, there is no major difference between a “physical” and electronic publication.

Another sign of ignorance: it said that the bill attacks the owners of media outlets by considering them “third-party liable.” The truth is that the Civil Code (from 1984) already establishes Article 1981 for responsibility. This concept is understood that the employers is responsible for the damages done by their subordinates.

Many of the opposition lawmakers have joined journalists and bloggers against the proposed bill, and there is speculation that it will be withdrawn.

1 comment

  • This is so interesting, I was just saying to friends the other day that I find it curious that it is not illegal for US media to lie or twist facts systematically. We were talking about some of the media coverage on US health care, which has been inspiring many malicious falsehoods. But how could you legislate that kind of thing fairly?

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