Correa Continues Assault on Freedom of Expression in Ecuador

The recent sentencing of an Ecuadorian National Assembly member and two prominent political activists for allegedly slandering President Rafael Correa constitutes a grave violation of free speech rights. Freedom House calls on the Ecuadorian government to cease its lawsuits against public figures and government critics.

In 2011 President Correa sued Clever Jimenez, a National Assembly member representing the opposition Pachakutik Indigenous Party, and Fernando Villavicencio, a former labor union leader and author of the recently released book Ecuador: Made in China, claiming damages for their public statements criticizing the President’s response to police-led protests on September 30, 2010. On April 16, 2013, the Ecuadorian Supreme Court ruled in favor of the President, sentencing the defendants to 18 months in prison for violation of Article 494 of Ecuador’s penal code, which vaguely states that accusations or insults without factual basis can be punished by three months to three years in prison. Carlos Figueroa, a political activist, was also charged and sentenced to six months in prison. According to the ruling, all three individuals will be forced to pay fines and issue formal apologies to the President.

“The latest lawsuit is just one more example of the government’s abuse of antiquated defamation laws and an acquiescent judiciary to silence dissenting voices,” said Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs at Freedom House. “The international community must speak loudly and cohesively in condemning the Ecuadorian President’s repeated violations of freedom of expression.”

The recent decision is not the first time that Ecuadorian courts have ruled in favor of President Correa in a libel case.  President Correa successfully sued the owners of the widely read newspaper El Universo and the authors of the book El Gran Hermano on similar charges.

Ecuador is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013 and Freedom of the Press 2012.

Learn more:

Freedom in the World 2013: Ecuador

Freedom of the Press 2012: Ecuador

Blog: Freedom at Issue

Blog: The Democratic Implications of Four More Years of Correa