New York, September 20, 2011—The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed by an Ecuadoran appeals court ruling today upholding a criminal libel conviction against four El Universo newspaper managers in a case brought by President Rafael Correa.
“We are deeply disappointed by the court’s decision to uphold this conviction against El Universo, which sets a dangerous legal precedent and is a blow to freedom of expression in Ecuador,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “Today’s decision gives cover to those seeking to silence a critical press. Ecuadoran authorities must, at minimum, debate measures to reform obsolete defamation laws so that they conform to international press freedom standards.”
Correa filed suit in March against El Universo executives Carlos Pérez Barriga, César Pérez Barriga, and Nicolás Pérez Barriga (who are brothers), along with opinion editor Emilio Palacio, who has since resigned. The lawsuit, which stemmed from a biting column published in El Universo , resulted in prison terms and multimillion-dollar fines against the defendants. A recent CPJ special report found that Ecuador’s outdated criminal defamation provisions have been used to punish critical journalists.