Home Page > News Item > ECUADOR – Owners and ex-editor of El Universo pardoned; sentencing against authors of El Gran Hermano to be withdrawn

RAN 42/11 update #3 28 February 2012

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International warmly welcomes the news that President Rafael Correa will pardon the three owners and former editor of the newspaper El Universo, and also that he will withdraw the sentence imposed on the two authors of the book El Gran Hermano. The decision follows international protests by PEN and other free expression organisations.

On 20 July 2011, Emilio Palacio, former editor of El Universo, and directors Carlos Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, Carlos Pérez Barriga, and César Pérez Barriga were sentenced to three years each in prison for publishing an article that President Correa said offended his honour. The ruling also awarded Correa $40 million in compensation. This decision was upheld by the Supreme Court on 16 February 2012. On 27 February 2012, Correa announced that he would pardon the men and void the fine.

On 7 February 2012 the authors of El Gran Hermano, Juan Carlos Calderón and Cristian Zurita, were each ordered to pay President Correa US$1million for offending his honour. The court found the two men guilty of defamation for reporting on contracts that the president’s brother allegedly had with the state. On 27 February 2012, President Correa announced that he would withdraw the sentences imposed on the two journalists.

The original sentencing in both cases sparked international outrage. The WiPC of PEN International campaigned against the conviction and sentencing of the owners and former editor of El Universo. We also issued a statement highlighting the deeply worrying state of freedom of expression in Ecuador and the use of criminal libel laws to silence critical voices.

No action is required from PEN members at this point.

For further details please contact Cathal Sheerin at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: cathal.sheerin@pen-international.org

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