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Magazine director faces prison sentence for "defamation"

(FLIP/IFEX) - 4 August 2009 - Rodrigo Pardo, director of "Cambio" magazine, faces a prison sentence as a result of a complaint filed by José Alfredo Escobar Araújo, a magistrate of the Superior Legislative Council.

The legal action was launched following the publication of an article in the 27 November 2008 edition of "Cambio" alleging that the judge is linked to Italian citizen Giorgo Sale, who is accused of drug trafficking.

After the case was heard in court, "Cambio" was forced to issue a correction on 25 February 2009. Nevertheless, Escobar Araújo felt that the correction was unsatisfactory and launched a criminal defamation action. A Bogotá criminal court judge called for Pardo's arrest after deeming that he had failed to comply with the court's original decision.

Escobar Araújo has brought a number of legal actions against media outlets, journalists and columnists who have reported on his alleged links to Sale. Recent cases involved "Semana" magazine and its director, Alejandro Santos, the newspaper's columnists, Daniel Coronell and María Jimena Duzán, and columnist Mauricio Vargas of "El Tiempo".

The courts have often ruled in favor of the media outlets. Most recently, the Constitutional Court dismissed the defamation complaint launched against Santos, who like Pardo, would have faced a prison sentence had the action gone ahead.

FLIP expresses its concern over the defamation complaint filed against Pardo and "Cambio". The organisation believes it is unfortunate that a public official like Escobar Araújo should systematically resort to legal action to censor the media.

While FLIP is respectful of the legal process and the judges' decision, it is suprised that the case is going ahead even though "Cambio" already published a correction and such a disproportionate sanction is being considered. Moreover, the judges presiding over the case are not taking into account the precedent set by the recent ruling in the "Semana" case. The Constitutional Court came to the conclusion that in ordering a media outlet to publish a correction, the courts cannot impose the exact manner in which that correction is to be printed.

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  • Constitutional Court overturns ruling sentencing "Semana" magazine editor to three days in jail

    (RSF/IFEX) - On 31 March 2009, the Constitutional Court overturned a previous ruling that had sentenced "Semana" magazine editor Alejandro Santos to three days in prison. The court considered the corrections that the magazine had made to an article published in 2008 to be sufficient. The legal action against Santos resulted from a complaint launched by Judge José Alfredo Escobar Araujo after his name was mentioned in the article in question. Escobar Araujo felt that the article damaged his honour and, as such, proceeded with legal action against the magazine. Santos was sentenced to both the three days in jail and a fine after refusing to modify, according to criteria set out by the courts, a correction that the magazine had already published. The Constitutional Court came to the conclusion that the courts in ordering a media outlet to publish a correction cannot impose the exact manner in which that correction is to be printed.

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