16 February 2012

Alert

Sentence against "El Universo" is a setback for democracy


Incident details

Appeal rejected

El Universo, Newspaper

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(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, February 16, 2012 - The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged that Ecuador's highest court upheld today a libel conviction brought by President Rafael Correa against the Guayaquil-based dailyEl Universo.

"An editor is seeking political asylum, three executives may soon go to jail, and the country's leading paper may go bankrupt solely because President Correa disliked an opinion piece," said CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauria. "This shortsighted ruling will only keep Ecuadoran journalists from investigating powerful politicians; it represents a serious setback for democracy in Ecuador."

In March, President Correa filed the suit against three executives and a former opinion editor with El Universo. All were sentenced in July to three years in jail, and to pay $40 million in damages. The lawsuit stems from a biting column published in El Universo in February.

A CPJ special report shows that Ecuador's outdated criminal defamation provisions have been systematically used to punish critical journalists.

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More on this case

PANAMÁ CONCEDE ASILO DIPLOMÁTICO A DIRECTOR DE EL UNIVERSO, TRAS SENTENCIA DE ÚLTIMA INSTANCIA 20 February 2012 Judge claims president's attorney dictated original sentence against "El Universo" 16 February 2012 Tribunal sets new date for the review of facts in "El Universo" case 14 February 2012 National Court of Justice ratifies three-year prison sentence against Emilio Palacio 5 January 2012 Former columnist faces second lawsuit for slander 19 October 2011 "El Universo" threatened with two more lawsuits 30 September 2011 Tribunal upholds sentencing of newspaper, its directors and former feature writer on defamation charge 22 September 2011 President's attorney asks public prosecutor to initiate additional legal action against "El Universo" newspaper 8 September 2011 Faced with ongoing legal action, journalist decides to leave the country 30 August 2011 Defence lawyers question judge's independence in case against newspaper; opinion editor faces new lawsuit 25 August 2011 Cyber activists hack municipality's webpage in protest against government's attacks on free expression 11 August 2011 Newspaper directors, writer sentenced to three years in prison, US$40 million fine 21 July 2011 Columnist resigns in attempt to stop president's lawsuit against paper 12 July 2011 President requests more than 150 reports about directors and feature writer in connection with lawsuit against newspaper 24 June 2011 President demands US$80 million in case against newspaper, directors and feature writer 1 April 2011
 
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At this point, would publish: "Home page"
At this point, would publish: "IFEX-ALC concerned over recent developments that undermine and jeopardise fundamental freedoms"
At this point, would publish: "IFEX members urge President to withdraw US$80 million lawsuit against paper"
At this point, would publish: "Government media outlets attempt to link founder and owner of newspaper to corrupt businesses"
At this point, would publish: "President requests more than 150 reports about directors and feature writer in connection with lawsuit against newspaper"
At this point, would publish: "Columnist resigns in attempt to stop president's lawsuit against paper"
At this point, would publish: "Newspaper directors, writer sentenced to three years in prison, US$40 million fine"
At this point, would publish: "Cyber activists hack municipality's webpage in protest against government's attacks on free expression"
At this point, would publish: "Defence lawyers question judge's independence in case against newspaper; opinion editor faces new lawsuit"
At this point, would publish: "Faced with ongoing legal action, journalist decides to leave the country"
At this point, would publish: "President's attorney asks public prosecutor to initiate additional legal action against "El Universo" newspaper"
At this point, would publish: "Tribunal upholds sentencing of newspaper, its directors and former feature writer on defamation charge"
At this point, would publish: ""El Universo" threatened with two more lawsuits"
At this point, would publish: "Former columnist faces second lawsuit for slander"
At this point, would publish: "Se denuncia que sentencia contra diario fue elaborada por abogados del presidente de la república"
At this point, would publish: "National Court of Justice ratifies three-year prison sentence against Emilio Palacio"
At this point, would publish: "Tribunal sets new date for the review of facts in "El Universo" case"
At this point, would publish: "Judge claims president's attorney dictated original sentence against "El Universo""
At this point, would publish: "President demands US$80 million in case against newspaper, directors and feature writer"
 
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