6 February 2024
Peruvian cartoonist Carlos Tovar (Carlín) and the newspaper La República intimidated by Peruvian police
In a statement (in Spanish) published on 30 January 2024, the Peruvian National Police (PNP) announced that it would be taking legal action against Peruvian cartoonist Carlín and his newspaper over a cartoon.
Learn to tell them apart (Don’t get confused) »
From left to right: «Delinquent in a policeman’s suit », « Delinquent policeman », « Policeman doing his duty »
The cartoon, published on 30 January 2024 in the newspaper La República, is a critical depiction of the Peruvian National Police. It was published against a backdrop of media reports implicating members of the police in criminal activities.
The police communications department issued a statement (in Spanish) the same day. Stating that the cartoon “ridicules” the police, it announced its intention to take legal action against the cartoonist and the newspaper La República.
Carlín, who stresses that his cartoon depicts an everyday situation in Peru, deplores this attack on his freedom of expression. In 2020, he had already received insults and threats for a cartoon published in the same newspaper, for which he has worked for over twenty years. This time, the attack goes beyond threats.
On Friday 2 February, the cartoonist and the newspaper La República were served with a notarised letter from the police, asking them to apologise and rectify their publication within 48 hours or face criminal proceedings for defamation. Under article 132 of the Peruvian Penal Code, this offence carries a penalty of one to three years’ imprisonment, in breach of Inter-American jurisprudence ruling out any prison sentence for press offenses.
A number of cartoonists and journalists’ unions, such as the National Association of Journalists (ANP), the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) and the Peruvian Press Council (CPP), quickly rallied in support of the cartoonist and his newspaper, denouncing an attack on freedom of expression.
In its statement, the ANP points out that “humour enjoys special protection as a legitimate expression of freedom of expression” and that “a truly democratic system is based on tolerance of critical artistic expression, a tolerance that is clearly foreign to the person who drew the police statement”. The IPYS’ lawyer, Roberto Peirera, emphasised that “the cartoon contains content that is critical of the police force, which has been severely criticised for objective and verifiable facts”.
The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Colombian lawyer Pedro Vaca Villarreal, reacted on X -formely Twitter (in Spanish): “A cartoon does not affect the ‘institutional image’ of an entity. Eroding the space for humour aimed at an authority seriously undermines freedom of expression. When the authorities are concerned by humour, it is because the thought it seeks to provoke is relevant”.
Support has thus spread far beyond national borders. The World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) condemns this legal harassment and offers its support, as does the Inter-American Press Association (SIP).
The implications of this case on the work of the media, cartoonists and artists are causing growing concern in a country where attacks on press freedom are on the increase. The ANP forecasts 206 attacks on the press in 2021 and 303 attacks in 2022, against a backdrop of marked political crisis. Ranked 77 out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index in 2022, Peru dropped to 110th place in 2023.
📢 [CARTOONIST ALERT]
In a statement published on 30 January 2024, the Peruvian National Police announced that it would be taking legal action against Peruvian cartoonist #Carlín and his newspaper @larepublica_pe over a cartoon: https://t.co/1820o86DuC
— Cartooning for Peace (@CartooningPeace) February 6, 2024
Cartooning for Peace supports the cartoonist Carlín and the newspaper La República and denounces any intimidation aimed at obstructing a cartoon that falls within the scope of freedom of expression.
Cartooning for Peace calls for the support expressed for Carlín and his newspaper to be heard at the highest level.