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Journalist sentenced to six months in prison for defamation

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 15 January 2010, a Guayaquil criminal court sentenced Peter Tavra Franco, a journalist for the "Diario Universo" newspaper, to six months in prison and to pay US$3,000 in damages on defamation charges stemming from a lawsuit filed against him by Mónica Carrera, who has been accused of human trafficking.

The lawsuit was launched based on an article published by Tavra in February 2009, entitled "Detained human trafficker flees clinic", in which he recounted Carrera's escape from a clinic after she was arrested for human trafficking.

Carrera claimed that the article caused serious damage to her "good name and reputation". The journalist, however, told IPYS and FUNDAMEDIOS that he wrote the article based on police documents that supported the information.

A court of first instance originally dismissed the case. However, that decision was appealed and a court of second instance declared the journalist guilty.

The newspaper filed an appeal of the verdict against the journalist on 22 January.

IPYS and FUNDAMEDIOS have expressed their concern over this ruling which represents yet another sentencing against a journalist in which malice was never proven, as was stated in the first instance court ruling on the case. Because these types of verdicts have resulted in two journalists being imprisoned in recent years, the two organisations believe that an atmosphere of judicial persecution against the press is being created. For this reason, they are demanding a clear statement on this issue from the National Court of Justice and the Superior Council of the Judiciary.

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