***UPDATE: English PEN welcomes the early release of La Verdad editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores, who had been imprisoned since November 2008 for allegedly libelling a judge. Chacaguasay was reportedly freed on parole in May 2009 after serving six months of his 10-month sentence. For more information, please click here. ***
English PEN protests the 10-month prison sentence handed to editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores on 15 November 2008.
According to our information, on 15 November 2008, a criminal court in the southwestern province of El Oro sentenced Milton Chacaguasay Flores, editor and director of the weekly newspaper La Verdad, based in Machala, southern Ecuador, to 10 months in prison for allegedly libeling a judge. Chacaguasay was arrested and jailed on 30 November.
The judge who brought the case in late 2007 claimed that Chacaguasay had accused him of corruption in a report published in La Verdad in September that year. According to the editor, the report in question was not written by him or his staff but by a third party who had paid for its publication. The piece reportedly requested the National Judiciary Council to review a sentence issued by the judge, who was not named, that was considered to be unfair.
Chacaguasay was acquitted of the charges in May 2008 but was found guilty on appeal before a different court on 15 November and sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment. In February 2008, the same court had given the editor an eight-month prison sentence for allegedly libeling the leader of the Christian Social Party, whom Chacasaguay had reportedly linked to corruption in Machala municipality. The first sentence is pending appeal by the National Court of Justice.
Chacaguasay was held in the Social Rehabilitation Center in Machala from his arrest on 30 November until 5 December, when he was transferred to a maximum security prison in Quito, reportedly for fear that other prisoners may attempt to kill him. According to his son, the politician who brought the first libel case left a death threat on Chacaguasay’s voicemail on 1 December.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stated in 1994: “Considering the consequences of criminal sanctions and the inevitable chilling effect they have on freedom of expression, criminalization of speech can only apply in those exceptional circumstances when there is an obvious and direct threat of lawless violence.”
– Report from Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS): http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99310/ (English), http://www.ifex.org/es/content/view/full/99312 (Spanish)
– Letter from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): http://cpj.org/2008/12/cpj-to-correa-release-journalists-jailed-for-defam.php (English)
Please send appeals:
• Protesting the 10-month prison sentence given to La Verdad editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores on 15 November 2008 for allegedly libeling a judge. The WiPC believes his conviction and detention to be in violation of the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Ecuador is party.
• Expressing serious concern that Chacaguasay has reportedly received threats from the plaintiff in another libel suit and that there are fears for his safety in prison
• Asking that the editor be released immediately and unconditionally.
President Rafael Correa
Palacio de Carondelet, García Moreno 1043, entre Chile y Espejo, Quito, Ecuador
Fax: 593 2 258 0714
Please also send copies of appeal letters to the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK:
His Excellency Eduardo Cabezas Molina
3 Hans Crescent London
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/ecuadoreditorgiven10monthsinprison/