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Ecuadorian journalist sentenced to prison for defamation

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 8 March 2013, Judge Bayardo García sentenced journalist Yaco Martínez, chief executive of the newspaper La Nación in the province of Carchi - on the border with Colombia - to one month in prison and the payment of $30,000, after finding him guilty of the crime of non-slanderous defamation and damaging the "reputation, credit or interest" of the former Governor of the province, María Helena Villarreal.

The lawsuit originated from the publication of an article titled "Person declared as 'non-grata' will be in charge of the government" on 2 September 2012. In it the newspaper La Nación made public the disagreement of several sectors regarding the assignment of the government to a former political leader after the incumbent requested time off. The former Governor believes the article aimed to "attack, discredit and scorn my good name, morality, dignity, honor, fame and prestige (...); the defendant, deceiving the public, wants to blame me for alleged illegal actions that only exist in his desire to harm."

She also specified that "in order to typify the crime, the fact that I am an authority should be considered, and as such I have been the victim of non-slanderous defamation. As a consequence the penalty to be imposed on the defendant should be from three to six months in prison and a fine of six to twelve dollars".

On 27 September Villarreal publicly announced her resignation as governor of Carchi - by request of the Ministry of the Interior - in the midst of controversy caused by the implementation of a new distribution system for domestic gas, which led to protests.

Martínez tild Fundamedios that this is a politicized ruling because the prosecution did not present any evidence of defamation. Meanwhile the former Governor said, according to the newspaper El Norte, that all she wants is "that the press fulfills its role ethically and without lying to the public".

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