11 March 2004


PERIODISTAS files amicus curiae briefs in defamation cases

Incident details

Mauricio Herrera Ulloa, Ricardo Canese


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(PERIODISTAS/IFEX) - On 27 February and 1 March 2004, PERIODISTAS submitted two amicus curiae briefs to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The first brief was submitted in support of Costa Rican journalist Mauricio Herrera Ulloa's case. Herrera Ulloa, a journalist for the daily "La Nación", was convicted of defamation, under both criminal and civil law, after he cited European media reports about a Costa Rican diplomat. The diplomat found the reports to be offensive.

The second brief addressed the case of Ricardo Canese, a Paraguayan political candidate who was convicted of criminal defamation for calling his opponent in the elections, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, a "straw man" for former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights decided to consider the cases after Costa Rica and Paraguay ignored the findings and recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

PERIODISTAS questioned both the existence and the use of criminal legal provisions to protect a person's honour, arguing that the use of such measures violates Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which upholds the right to freedom of expression and information. If the cases against Costa Rica and Paraguay were to be considered in these terms, it would be recognised that the two countries have violated the convention and they could be obliged to change their laws and overturn the convictions against Herrera Ulloa and Canese. Such a decision would also set a precedent for all signatories to the convention, for which the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' rulings are legally binding.

In a press release about the legal briefs, PERIODISTAS noted that in Argentina reforms to decriminalise the laws regarding slander and libel have yet to be considered and passed. The Argentine government and the IACHR reached an agreement regarding the reforms, after PERIODISTAS brought several cases to the IACHR's attention in 1999.



IFEX members working in this country 1

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