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Journalist given 20-month suspended prison sentence on defamation charge

(FLIP/IFEX) - 13 October 2011 - FLIP is concerned over the 20-month suspended prison sentence handed down to journalist Luis Agustín González, the editor of the "Cundinamarca Demócratica" newspaper. González, who was sentenced on a defamation charge, was also given a substantial fine, equivalent to 20 "minimum salaries", or approximately US$5500.

The editor was sued by politician Leonor Serrano de Camargo, a former governor of the department of Cundinamarca, after he published an editorial in 2008, entitled "¡NO MÁS! " ("No More!"), in which he questioned Serrano's candidacy for election to Congress. In the editorial, González reminded readers of some of Serrano's actions as governor and said that, in his opinion, voters should not reward her for those actions. According to Serrano, the article damaged her "honour and good name". A municipal judge ruled in her favour.

FLIP is of the opinion that the sentencing of González contravenes national and international jurisprudence and sets a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression in Colombia. The organisation points out that in a democracy, such as Colombia, the right to express critical or provocative opinions should be protected, particularly in cases involving public figures. The sentencing of González serves to create an intimidating environment for journalists, conducive to self-censorship.

González's defence team said it will appeal the ruling.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)
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