Editor Given 10 Months in Prison
International PEN protests the 10-month prison sentence handed to La Verdad editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores on November 15, 2008 for allegedly libeling a judge. PEN believes that Chacaguasay’s conviction and imprisonment is 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 Convention on Human Rights, to which Ecuador is a state party. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
On November 15, 2008, a criminal court in the southwestern province of El Oro sentenced Milton Chacaguasay Flores, editor and director of the weekly newspaper La Verdad, based in Machala, southern Ecuador, to 10 months in prison for allegedly libeling a judge. Chacaguasay was arrested and jailed on November 30, 2008.
The judge who brought the case in late 2007 claimed that Chacaguasay accused him of corruption in a report published in La Verdad in September that year. According to the editor, the report in question was not written by him or his staff, but by a third party who paid for its publication. The piece reportedly requested the National Judiciary Council to review a sentence issued by the unnamed judge, which was considered to be unfair.
Chacaguasay was acquitted of the charges in May 2008, but was found guilty on appeal before a different court on November 15, and sentenced to 10 months in prison. In February 2008, the same court gave the editor an eight-month prison sentence for allegedly libeling the leader of the Christian Social Party, whom Chacasaguay had reportedly linked to corruption in Machala municipality. The first sentence is pending appeal by the National Court of Justice.
Chacaguasay was held in the Social Rehabilitation Center in Machala from his arrest on November 30 until December 5, 2008, when he was transferred to a maximum security prison in Quito, reportedly for fear that other prisoners may attempt to kill him. According to his son, the politician who brought the first libel case left a death threat on Chacaguasay’s voicemail on December 1.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) stated in 1994: "Considering the consequences of criminal sanctions and the inevitable chilling effect they have on freedom of expression, criminalization of speech can only apply in those exceptional circumstances when there is an obvious and direct threat of lawless violence."
Write A Letter
- Protesting the 10-month prison sentence given to La Verdad editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores on November 15, 2008 for allegedly libeling a judge. PEN believes his conviction and detention 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 Convention on Human Rights, to which Ecuador is signatory;
- Expressing serious concern that Chacaguasay has reportedly received threats from the plaintiff in another libel suit, and that there are fears for his safety in prison;
- Asking that the editor be released immediately and unconditionally.
Send Your Letter To
President Rafael Correa
Palacio de Carondelet
García Moreno 1043
Entre Chile y Espejo
Fax: +593 2 258 0714
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative of Ecuador in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after February 14, 2009: ftw [at] pen.org