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Editor of weekly newspaper sentenced to 10 months in prison for libel

(IPYS/IFEX) - Journalist Milton Chacaguasay Flores, the editor and owner of the weekly newspaper "La Verdad", was sentenced to ten months in prison for committing libel against Judge Silvio Castillo. The sentence was issued by a criminal court in the province of El Oro on 15 November 2008. The journalist was arrested on 30 November and imprisoned in the Social Rehabilitation Center in Machala, southern Ecuador.

According to Castillo, the journalist accused him of earning money by illegal means without any evidence in a report that was published in September 2007. Chacaguasay argued that the report was published in part of the paper that was contracted out, in which the National Judiciary Council was asked to review a sentence issued by Judge Castillo that was considered to be unfair.

The journalist was acquitted by criminal court judge Óscar Solano in a first hearing of the case held in May 2008. The plaintiff, however, appealed the decision and in the subsequent hearing before a different criminal court Chacasaguay was sentenced to ten months in prison. In February, the same court had sentenced Chacasaguay to eight months in prison for committing libel against the leader of the Christian Social Party, José Ugarte Aguilar, whom the journalist had linked to allegations of corruption in the municipality of Machala. The National Court of Justice must now rule on an appeal for annulment that was presented by the defendant.

The journalist's son, Luis Miguel Chacaguasay, said that, on 1 December, Ugarte Aguilar left a death threat for his father on his voicemail.

IPYS and FUNDAMEDIOS (Fundación Andina para la Observación y Estudio de Medios) are of the opinion that the offences of defamation, slander and libel should be decriminalised and handled in the civil courts, which have the power to impose compensation payments but not prison sentences for those found guilty.

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