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RSF calls for release of newspaper editor imprisoned for "insulting" judge

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of newspaper editor Milton Chacaguasay Flores, who has completed half of a 10-month sentence for "insulting" a judge and could therefore be freed on good behaviour. The owner and editor of "La Verdad", a weekly based in the south-western city of Machala, Chacaguasay was convicted on appeal on 15 November 2008.

"We urge the judicial authorities to rule in favour of his release," Reporters Without Borders said. "This case highlights the need to decriminalise press offences. Jailing journalists does not redress defamation, does not help to protect society and does not protect the media against abuse of the law. This legislation must be amended."

Press offences continue to be punishable by imprisonment in Ecuador, unlike much of the western hemisphere where the general trend is towards decriminalisation in line with article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The complaint against Chacaguasay was brought by Judge Silvio Castillo over a September 2007 article about alleged "illegal enrichment" by an unnamed judge. A lower court acquitted him in May 2008 after he demonstrated that neither he nor the newspaper were responsible for the article, which was contained in a free insert.

Castillo won his case on appeal last November. The ten-month jail sentence was passed by the same court that had previously sentenced Chacaguasay to eight months in prison in February 2008 for allegedly insulting a leader of the Social Christian Party by linking him to corruption.

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