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Peru: A Bill on Obscene Content

The media in Peru are often accused of sensationalism and yellow journalism. After the Fujimori period and the vladi-videos uncover which involved corruption and the sale of editoarial agendas and various media, it was assumed that media would regain seriousness, but tabloids (“prensa chicha” or “chicha press”) had come to stay. Front pages of newspapers with flashy headlines and pictures that for many cross the boundary of decency are a daily occurance. But who defines the limit of decency or morals?

A few days ago the news broke of a bill [es] (pdf) that had been approved by the Justice Comission in Congress, proposing an amendment to section 183-B of the Penal Code, which sanctions the media publication of obscene and pornographic displays. As a result, the banners of “Freedom of the Press” and “Freedom of Speech” were raised by opponents, but .. Is it really so?

The bill's main section says the following: “shall be punished with deprivation of liberty of not less than two years nor more than six years, the Director, Editor or person responsible for publications or editions, transmitted through media such as newspapers, magazines, posters, panels, leaflets, radio, television or any other means of communication that produces a similar communication effect, who publicize images, messages or audio that is obscene or pornographic.”

Those who are leading the opposition to this bill are the media and journalists [es], who were the most affected. Some bloggers, especially those who are journalists and are also linked to the media, have also argued against this bill. There are, however, other bloggers from other areas who also cast their opinions. For example, in the blog Blawyer.org Miguel Morachimo who is against the project, publishes [es] a series of points he has identified as problems in the bill:

  1. El artículo no define lo que se entenderá por obsceno o pornográfico.
  2. Existe un artículo idéntico en la Ley de Radio y Televisión.
  3. La norma no está dirigida a proteger a los menores de edad.
  4. La norma pretende aplicarse a cualquier medio de comunicación.
  5. La norma puede ser utilizada como una herramienta de censura.
1.  The article does not define what is meant by obscene or pornographic.
2.  There is an identical item in the Law on Radio and Television.
3.  The rule is not aimed at protecting minors.
4.  The rule aims to be applied to any means of communication.
5.  The rule may be used as a tool of censorship.

With a favorable opinion on the bill, Javier Fernández from his blog Javi270270 ¿Qué pasa? says[es] the following:

tengo la impresión que la ley que promueve Belmont se refiere a casos específicos. La verdad es que falta perfeccionarla pero no es mala como concepto. El congreso se ve en la necesidad de regular cuando la “auto regulación” no funciona. … Eso de escudarse que el canal RBC ha dado obscenidades no invalida la corrección que en la actualidad se está planteando. Basta de periódicos obscenos invocando la libertad de expresión. Ellos no me inspiran respeto.

I am under the impression that the law Belmont is promoting referrs to specific cases. The truth is that it has to be perfected but as a concept the bill is not bad. Congress sees the need to regulate when “self-regulation” does not work. …  That the channel RBC has shown obscenities does not invalidate the correction that is currently being proposed. Stop relying on obscene newspapers invoquing freedom of expression. In my opinion, they don't inspire respect.

And with a point of view that tries to be in the middle of the aforementioned opinions, the blogger from  Zona Cero writes [es]:

el viejo debate sobre el papel de los medios de comunicación y los riesgos de una hasta hoy no comprobada influencia negativa directa en las actitudes y las conductas de las audiencias. … Así como es válido que la prensa se pregunte quién decidirá qué es pornográfico y obsceno, resulta completamente comprensible que la ciudadanía se pregunte: ¿Y quién define qué es autorregulación? No del todo libres de ingenuidad, algunos periodistas creen que la autorregulación se logrará con ayuda de los anunciantes. Como si la lógica del mercadeo pudiera desprenderse, aunque sea en forma temporal, de la dictadura del rating, los estudios de audiencia y los índices de lectoría.

the old debate about the role of the media and the risks of a so far unproven direct negative influence on attitudes and behaviors of the audience. … Just as it is valid that the press is wondering who will decide what is pornographic and obscene, it is completely understandable that the public asks: Who defines what is self-regulation? Not completely free of naivety, some journalists believe that self-regulation will be achieved with the help of advertisers. As if the logic of marketing might break away, even temporarily, from the dictatorship of ratings, studies of audiences and readership rates.

As expected, there is already a Facebook page about the issue: Ricardo Belmont apesta [es]! (Ricardo Belmont stinks!). But it is in the comments of articles published in Lima newspapers where opinions you would hear from a coworker or neighborhood friend are expressed. For example, these are the comments from this article [es] in newspaper La República:

Lotty – ¿Se autoregulan los noticieros de televisión que pasan sólo noticias policiales y de farándula cuando hay tantos temas que son de interpés y nunca tratan? ¿se autoregulan los programas cómicos que se burlan de los negros, los cholos, los homosexuales y los minusválidos? ¿se autoregulan los periódicos que hacen lo mismo?

David – Me disgusta mucho la prensa sensacionalista y la vulgaridad rampante de muchos medios de comunicación; sin embargo, nada justifica este proyecto de ley (que aunque haya tenido buenos propósitos está pésimamente redactado) demasiado general y que deja un amplio campo de acción para que los jueces (y estamos llenos de malos jueces) apliquen el concepto de obscenidad y pornográfico a tantas cosas vulnerando de esa manera el derecho a la libertad de opinión y de expresión. No creo que pase al final, pero dice mucho de la calidad de nuestros representantes.

Cesar Portugal – Mal las portadas de los diarios que vemos todos los dias en los puestos de periódicos y esos no se compran, se miran gratuitamente malogrando la mente de menores que no han recibido ninguna orientación sexual en sus casas, me refiero a los sectores C, D y E que son la mayoría y lo peor es que no aportan nada a la educación y la formación de los peruanos.

Lotty-Do TV newscasts that only broadcast police beats and gossip self-regulate when there are so many issues that are never touched on? do comedy shows that make fun of blacks, indians, homosexuals and handicapped self-regulate? do newspapers that do the same also self-regulate?

David-I dislike a lot of the tabloids and the rampant vulgarity seen in many media, however, nothing justifies this bill (which has had good intentions but is badly written) it is too general and leaves a huge scope for judges (and we are full of bad judges) to apply the concept of obscenity and pornography to many things, thereby violating the right to freedom of opinion and expression. I do not think it will pass in the end, but it speaks volumes about the quality of our representatives.

Cesar Portugal – The front pages we see every day on the newsstands are bad, and these can not be bought, they can be look at for free, ruining the minds of children who have not received any sexual orientation at home, I mean the [poorest sectors] which are the majority and the worst is that they add nothing to the education and training of Peruvians.

The same things can be seen in other articles [es] and news [es] published in different media. In either case, one has to remember that this is a bill, that it still has to follow a process so that it can be approved or not. And, the Premier Javier Velásquez has said [es] that if the bill were to be approved, the executive would send it back to Congress. But surely, more about this issue will be written in the coming days.

The thumbnail image used in this post is from Flickr user delamaza and used under a Creative Commons.

1 comment

  • la obsenidad esta en que los medios de comunicacion los periodicos las revistas utilizan a las mujeres ( modelos, bailarinas) como objetos de lujuria y deseo para vender su producto y esto atenta contra la dignidad de la mujer., porque las mujeres NO son objetos para ser exhibidos como si estuvieran en venta al mejor postor., las mujeres son seres humanos son personas merecen todo el respeto del mundo.

    dile NO a la explotacion del cuerpo femenino los medios de comunicacion denigran a las mujeres porque las exhibe como objetos de deseo y de lujuria y eso denigra la dignidad femenina., las mujeres merecen respeto que sean tratadas y miradas como seres humanos como personas y NO como objetos de deseo y de lujuria.

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