Disproportionate Sentencing Limits Freedom of Expression in Ecuador

Fundación LED (Libertad de Expresión + Democracia) is concerned about the sentence which was made public on April 17, sentencing National Assembly member Pachakutik Cléber Jiménez, activist Carlos Eduardo Figueroa and trade unionist Fernando Villavicencio to prison.

Enforcement of the Criminal Code Section establishing the crime of libel and slanders is not consistent with the position of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which has said that the rules including such conduct as a crime affect the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

In Ecuador libel and slanders have become a way to censor dissident voices. Indeed, recent occurrences such as the decision made in March this year sentencing La Nación journalist Yaco Martínez (charges having been pressed against him by the former Carchi Governor), or the sentence handed down on February 16, 2012, where Ecuador´s Corte Nacional de Justicia (the Supreme Court of Justice) upheld the sentence issued in the proceedings brought by Ecuador´s President, Rafael Correa, against the management of the newspaper El Universo, are clear examples of the above.

In February, 2012 Fundación LED showed its concern about the attempts made by some of the governments in the region, such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina, at judicializing freedom of expression. It is indispensable that democratic states decriminalize the role of journalism when disclosing information about the conduct of public officials, in particular their public behavior.

Fundación LED urges public officials from the countries in the region to avoid resorting to judicial threats which may turn into some sort of prior censorship restricting the right to freedom of expression.