May 7, 2009

President Rafael Correa
Palacio de Carondelet
Garcia Moreno 1043
Entre Chile y Espejo
Quito, Ecuador
Fax: +593 2 258 0714

Minister Gustavo Jalk
Ministro de Justicia y Derechos Humanos
Av. Amazonas 4545 y Atahualpa
Quito, Ecuador
Fax: +593 2 246 4971
Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the continued imprisonment of editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores.

According to our information, on November 15, 2008, a criminal court in the southwestern province of El Oro sentenced Milton Chacaguasay Flores, editor and director of the weekly Machala-based newspaper La Verdad, to 10 months’ imprisonment for allegedly libeling a judge. The judge, who filed the case in late 2007, claimed that Chacaguasay had accused him of corruption in a report published in La Verdad in September 2007. Although Chacaguasay was initially acquitted of the charges in May 2008, an appeals court subsequently convicted him. The same court had sentenced Chacasaguay to eight months’ imprisonment in February 2008 for allegedly libeling the leader of the Christian Social Party.

The 2007 article on which the current charges are based reportedly requested that the National Judiciary Council review a verdict issued by the unnamed judge. According to Chamaguasay, the report in question was not written by him or his staff, but by a third party who had paid for its publication. Chamaguasay was arrested and jailed on November 30, 2008, and since December has been serving his sentence in a maximum security prison in Quito. He has now served half of his sentence, and is eligible for early release due to his good behavior.

PEN American Center believes the conviction and imprisonment of Milton Chacaguasay Flores to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 13 of the American Conservation on Human Rights, to which Ecuador is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all writers persecuted solely for their writing. PEN also urges the Ecuadorian government to decriminalize press offenses in line with article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Ambassador Luis Benigno Gallegos Chiriboga
Embassy of Ecuador to the United States
2535 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 667-3482

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