Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

President of Ecuador Wins Libel Suit Against Paper; Editor & Directors Sentenced To Jail

An Ecuadorian judge has sentenced the directors and an editor of a newspaper to jail for an article which suggested that President Rafael Correa had ordered an attack on a hospital last year. The defendants must also pay millions of dollars in damages. They plan to appeal. The paper, El Universo, reacts here. The story has drawn reaction from media and press organizations around the world. Reporters Without Borders released this statement.

“Even if the columnist’s comments were excessive, we condemn the three-year jail sentences and the exorbitant fines and damages awards imposed on him and El Universo’s directors,” Reporters Without Borders said. “These sentences are all the more inopportune for coming at a time when the future communication law is being debated.

“Contrary to the general trend in Latin America of decriminalizing media offences, Ecuador’s legislation still provides for prison sentences for defamation. Jailing someone for a media offence is contrary to the jurisprudence established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which Ecuador is required to follow as a member of the Organization of American States.

“This kind of judicial persecution suggests that the authorities are pursuing a strategy aimed at silencing the country’s media, which are heavily criticized by President Correa in his radio and TV broadcasts known as ‘cadenas’ and ‘enlaces.’ We call again for the decriminalization of media offences and we urge the courts to overturn this ruling. Upholding it will just encourage self-censorship.”

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