Ecuadoran journalist, freed on parole, jailed again for slander

On May 5, 2009, Milton Nelson Chacaguasay Flores, director and editor of the weekly publication La Verdad in the city of Machala, was released on parole after serving six months in prison on libel charges. Chacaguasay told CPJ that on June 8, 2009, he was again charged with slander and sentenced to four months in prison. He said he believed the second prison sentence was an attempt to silence his reporting on local government corruption.

A criminal court in the southwestern province of El Oro gave Chacaguasay a 10-month prison sentence in November 2008 on libel charges brought by local judge Silvio Castillo, the local press reported. The journalist told CPJ that he was freed on good behavior in May 2009. Chacaguasay said he received two anonymous threatening calls in the month following his. The callers threatened to kill him if he continued to denounce corruption in the judicial system.

On June 9, 2009, Judge Paul Gallardo of the Criminal Court of El Oro sentenced Chacaguasay to four months in prison for slandering former Finance Minister Francisco Quevedo Madrid. The charges stem from a November 2007 story in La Verdad linking Quevedo to José Cabrera, who was accused of operating a nationwide Ponzi scheme. According to the journalist, the story was based on police reports stating that authorities had found a check for US$5,000 made out to Quevedo in Cabrera’s residence. Chacaguasay said other Ecuadoran outlets also reported the story. Chacaguasay and his attorneys were not notified of the court’s determination until after the period during which he could request an appeal, the journalist told CPJ.

During an interview from prison with CPJ, Chacaguasay said he continued to direct La Verdad from behind bars. He said he has received several death threats in jail linked to his work, and fears for his safety and that of his family. The journalist said he notified authorities about the threats.