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Volume 18, Number 2
February 19, 2012

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opinion

Also in this section:
Editorials: There really is such a thing as libel; and An offer that she must refuse
Asamblea Ciudadana, Toward the constitutional rule of law
Reporters Without Borders, El Universo verdict sets back freedom of expression
Bernal, About a dams referendum
Fisher, Panama's critical juncture
Tsenliki, Protecting oceans: It's not rocket science
Nauman, Native wisdom guides movement to close Keystone Pipeline route
Estevez, Diary of an arms trade lobbyist
Hightower, The Chief Twinkie goes Ding Dong
McCabe, Unexpected heroes
Thurston, The truth hurts sometimes
Gandásegui, The Ngabe treasure and the Tabasara River
Boff, From internationalized enterprise to biocentric society
Mercy Sisters join Panama justice campaign
Mijares, Ocean front
Worley, The smell test --- passed
Chomsky, "Losing" the World
Harrington, Ngabe awakening
Evans, A different kind of Europe
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, A new Falklands/Malvinas war unlikely
Hidalgo, A democratic crisis close to home
Letters to the editor

El Universo verdict a devastating setback for freedom of expression
by Reporters Without Borders

On February 15 Ecuador's National Court of Justice in Quito upheld the sentences imposed by lower courts against the newspaper El Universo and three of its representatives in a libel case brought by President Rafael Correa.

No further legal avenues are available to prevent Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez, respectively director and deputy directors of the newspaper, from serving three-year prison sentences and its publishing company from having to pay 40 million dollars in compensation to President Correa.

Lawyers for El Universo said they would apply to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

"The consequences of this decision have implications far beyond the El Universo case. The National Court of Justice has rubber-stamped a licence for self-censorship which could well have repercussions on other media organizations in the future, whatever their politics and whatever kind of government is in place," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Although Rafael Correa brought a case as a private individual and not as head of state, it is difficult not to see such an excessive penalty as a return to 'lèse-majesté,' which does not tally with the principles of the rule of law, which require a democratically elected government to accept criticism, however scathing and unjust.

"Polarization can only get worse, to the point where it might undermine the debate on the new communication law, some of whose provisions we find laudable.

"It's a mess."

While the El Universo representatives, or at least one of them --- César and Nicolás Pérez are currently in Miami --- is in detention, the press freedom organization is unable to accept the invitation from the Ecuadoran government to take part in a forum on freedom of information.

[Editor's note: Carlos Pérez took refuge in the Panamanian Embassy in Quito, and was granted asylum by the Panamanian government. As this story was uploaded his safe passage to Panama was being arranged.]

The violent scenes outside the court while the hearing was taking place, during which El Universo photographer Diógenes Baldeón and cameraman Romel Iza of the RTU television were attacked, illustrate the extent to which opinion is polarised among Ecuadoran society. We condemn these assaults, for which activists of the ruling Alianza País party were believed to be responsible.

These incidents show that the conditions for the proceedings to take place in a calm atmosphere did not exist.







    

Also in this section:
Editorials: There really is such a thing as libel; and An offer that she must refuse
Asamblea Ciudadana, Toward the constitutional rule of law
Reporters Without Borders, El Universo verdict sets back freedom of expression
Bernal, About a dams referendum
Fisher, Panama's critical juncture
Tsenliki, Protecting oceans: It's not rocket science
Nauman, Native wisdom guides movement to close Keystone Pipeline route
Estevez, Diary of an arms trade lobbyist
Hightower, The Chief Twinkie goes Ding Dong
McCabe, Unexpected heroes
Thurston, The truth hurts sometimes
Gandásegui, The Ngabe treasure and the Tabasara River
Boff, From internationalized enterprise to biocentric society
Mercy Sisters join Panama justice campaign
Mijares, Ocean front
Worley, The smell test --- passed
Chomsky, "Losing" the World
Harrington, Ngabe awakening
Evans, A different kind of Europe
Council on Hemispheric Affairs, A new Falklands/Malvinas war unlikely
Hidalgo, A democratic crisis close to home
Letters to the editor


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© 2012 by Eric Jackson
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