Supreme Court convicts journalist in criminal defamation case

APRIL 18, 2007
Posted May 16, 2007

Gustavo Escanlar Patrone, Canal 10


The Uruguayan Supreme Court of Justice ratified a three-month suspended prison sentence against Escanlar, host of the television program “Bendita TV,” in a criminal defamation suit.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds a 2006 verdict by a lower court in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, according to legal documents reviewed by CPJ. On May 18, 2006, the lower court had sentenced Escanlar to a three-year prison sentence, which was suspended because the journalist was a first-time offender, Escanlar’s lawyer, Edison Lanza, told CPJ.

The case stems from a January 18, 2007, interview on the Canal 10 television program “La Cupla es mía,” where Escanlar said that Federico Fasano, the owner of the media company Multimedio Plural, was “a son of a thousand bitches” when asked what he thought about him, said Lanza. Fassano brought forward slander charges against Escanlar the same month, according to the local press.

Escanlar told the news Web site Montevideo Portal that he planned to appeal the conviction to international human rights bodies.

In September 2006, the Supreme Court reinstated a criminal defamation conviction against journalist Carlos Dogliani Staricco for stories describing a local mayor’s handling of a constituent’s property tax debt. In its ruling, the high court unanimously overturned a 2005 appellate court decision and sentenced Dogliani to a five-month suspended term. The Supreme Court found that the right to one’s “honor” limits the media’s right to inform, and that criminal defamation laws are intended to restrict freedom of expression.