El Universo Pardoned; Sentence Against Two Authors Withdrawn
PEN International warmly welcomes the news that President Rafael Correa will pardon the three owners and former editor of the newspaper El Universo, and also that he will withdraw the sentence imposed on the two authors of the book El Gran Hermano. The decision follows international protests by PEN and other free expression organizations.
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On July 20, 2011, Emilio Palacio, former editor of El Universo, and directors Carlos Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, Carlos Pérez Barriga, and César Pérez Barriga were sentenced to three years each in prison for publishing an article that President Correa said offended his honor. The ruling also awarded Correa US$40 million in compensation. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on February 16, 2012. On February 27, 2012, Correa announced that he would pardon the men and void the fine.
On February 7, 2012, the authors of El Gran Hermano, Juan Carlos Calderón and Cristian Zurita, were each ordered to pay President Correa US$1million for offending his honor. The court found the two men guilty of defamation for reporting on contracts that the president’s brother allegedly had with the state. On February 27, 2012, President Correa announced that he would withdraw the sentences imposed on the two journalists.
The original sentencing in both cases sparked international outrage. PEN campaigned against the conviction and sentencing of the owners and former editor of El Universo. We also issued a statement highlighting the deeply worrying state of freedom of expression in Ecuador and the use of criminal libel laws to silence critical voices.