President Correa is not a criminal (but he is intolerant)

In a truly bizarre exchange that took place at Columbia University Friday, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa responded to a question from CPJ’s Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría by calling him a liar.

The episode is all the more bizarre because President Correa had just finished making the argument that it should be a criminal offense to attack someone’s honor. The president is fortunate that we disagree with him.

Lauría, who was the highly regarded U.S. correspondent for the Argentine weekly Noticias before joining CPJ in 2002 as Americas program coordinator, has traveled throughout the hemisphere in defense of press freedom and the rights of journalists. He just returned from Ecuador, where he released a meticulous and comprehensive report highlighting the sharp decline in press freedom in that country.

At the Columbia event, Lauría challenged the president on the case of El Universo, whose executives and a former op-ed editor have been sentenced to jail and hit with multimillion dollar fines because of their criticism of the president.

“Sir, you are lying and you are a liar,” Correa responded.

Correa’s reaction actually helped us to make our point that the president is thin-skinned, intolerant of criticism, and bullying.

Be that as it may, in our role as press freedom advocates we are sometimes subject to harsh attacks and we accept this. While calling someone a liar is unquestionably an attack on his personal honor, we categorically disagree with the president that it should be a criminal offense.

Instead, we intend to respond to the president’s insults by engaging in a serious, sustained debate. That’s what Lauría did in this interview with CNN en Español. Watch and judge for yourself who is telling the truth.