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Colombian Court Upholds Prison Sentence for Newspaper Editor
Freedom House condemns the Colombian Cudinamarca High Court’s decision on February 29 to uphold the prison sentence against Luis Agustin Gonzalez, editor of newspaper Cundinamarca Democrática, for criminal libel, and hopes the Supreme Court repeals the sentence. Gonzalez was sentenced to 18 months in prison and will have to pay a fine of $5,450 U.S. dollars. Maria Leonor Serrano de Camargo, former governor and current senator, sued Gonzalez for publishing a highly critical editorial in 2008 - “No Mas” - where he called her “arrogant” and questioned her performance as Fusagasuga’s mayor in 1989, in particular regarding the disappearances and killings of journalists.
“Freedom House is troubled by the application of libel, an outdated legal provision, to muzzle journalists,” said Viviana Giacaman, Director for Latin America Programs at Freedom House. “Just like many other countries in the region, Colombia must take steps to decriminalize libel and use civil procedures to address defamation cases".
Colombia is ranked Partly Free in Freedom of the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2011. Threats and attacks against journalists have increased in the past few months. Bladimir Sánchez Espitia, a freelance journalist and activist, recently received death threats after posting YouTube video showing anti-riot police forcibly removing protestors from a demonstration. In July 2011, freelance reporter Luis Eduardo Gómez was killed, likely for his role reporting corruption in Antioquia, and serving as a witness into an investigation into the links between politicians and paramilitary groups.