Ecuador's President Correa sues newspaper and is blamed for killing free speech
The Ecuadorian court suspended the libel hearing today, amid international criticism that President Rafael Correa is quashing free speech.
A much-awaited appeal hearing on the case of an Ecuadorian newspaper sued by the country's president was suspended today amid growing charges that President Rafael Correa is squashing free speech in this Andean nation.Skip to next paragraph
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The newspaper El Universo faces $40 million in damages and jail time, after they lost a libel suit brought by President Correa.
Correa, who has sued other journalists and created new media laws while greatly expanding the state media apparatus, has defended his moves to put a check on a sensational private industry with a political agenda. But his moves have been condemned by press groups inside the country and out, including American newspapers from coast to coast
Correa has drawn similar rebukes from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times in recent days. Perhaps the Washington Post in a Jan. 11 editorial put it most bluntly, blaming Correa for “ the most comprehensive and ruthless assault on free media underway in the Western Hemisphere.”
The libel case was brought by Correa last year after a column in the opposition publication questioned the events of a 2010 police protest that turned deadly, and that Correa has called a coup attempt.
Correa, attempting to address police protesting regarding pay issues, took refuge in a hospital and was finally rescued by the army. The newspaper, however, questioned the events of the army rescue, saying the president ordered authorities to fire on the hospital where there were civilians.
The author of the story, Emilio Palacio, along with the owners of the newspaper, were handed three years in jail. The paper faces an additional $40 million in fines.
Amid international criticism, Ecuador has sought to defend itself. The new ambassador to the US, Nathalie Cely, wrote in an op-ed in the Miami Herald, “To be very clear, no journalist in Ecuador has gone to jail, been kidnapped or paid a significant fine in the five years of the Correa presidency, even though El Universo, the newspaper owned by the Pérez family that these media watchdogs defend, published a scurrilous column about the president and an attempted coup against him that was factually untrue and far beyond any reasonable norm for criticism.”