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:
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:
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]:
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:
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.