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Journalist faces possible prison sentence if convicted of "insult and calumny"

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF hopes the Quito Supreme Court will not find journalist Celio Rosario Chamba, of "El Correo de Machalá" newspaper, guilty of "insult and calumny" - punishable by imprisonment - for reporting that two veterinary doctors plagiarised a Cuban book in a thesis they wrote, especially as the veterinarians acknowledged having copied much of the book.

"Convicting Chamba of 'insult and calumny' would be absurd and dangerous," RSF said. "Dangerous because these charges do not correspond to the alleged facts. Chamba did not insult or malign anyone. He could at most be accused of libel. And anyway, the two people who sued him have themselves acknowledged the substance of what he wrote in his article. We therefore urge the court to rule in his favour on both procedural and substantive grounds."

The current president of the College of Journalists of El Oro, Chamba, wrote in "El Correo de Machalá", a daily newspaper based in the southern city of Machalá, on 20 August 2005 that the two veterinarians copied most of their thesis from a Cuban book without permission. After bringing a lawsuit against him and losing before a lower court on 27 November 2006, the veterinarians appealed to the Quito Supreme Court, which held its final hearing in the case on 15 May and is expected to issue its verdict in the next few days.

The authors of the Cuban book, Santiago Torrens and Armando Alvarez Díaz, have acknowledged that they agreed in principle to their book being used as a bibliographic reference, although they did not explicitly agree to its reproduction. The two veterinarians finally admitted to borrowing heavily from the Cuban book but insisted this was not a problem. One of the veterinarians, Luis Antonio Brito, was a candidate for the post of rector of Machalá University when the article came out, and he claims Chamba wrote it with the intention of undermining his candidature.

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