World Association of News Publishers

Protest Campaign - Ecuador, 9 June 2011

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Protest Campaign - Ecuador, 9 June 2011

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His Excellency Rafael Correa,
President of the Republic of Ecuador,
Quito, Ecuador


9 June 2011


Your Excellency,

In response to our latest enquiry, we are pleased to inform you of the successful receipt of your letter dated 17 May. We very much appreciate the attention your government has dedicated to our concerns and welcome the opportunity to further the dialogue.

We fully understand that in your capacity as an Ecuadorian citizen, your Excellency has “the faculty to initiate legal action should you consider your rights violated”. At the same time, we believe public figures must be willing to tolerate a higher level of criticism. In addition, we respectfully remind you that resorting to criminal law is a wholly inappropriate means of dealing with the issue of defamation, and that a civil award of reasonable damages is adequate and appropriate relief in all proven cases of libel.

We believe that the criminal charges against El Universo and the individuals Carlos Pérez Barriga, César Pérez Barriga, Nicolás Pérez Lapentti and Emilio Palacio whom you have accused of defamation and contempt and for which you are seeking a total of US$ 80,000,000.00 damages along with three-year sentences, are not in line with regional or international standards of freedom of expression. Furthermore, we believe the punishment and financial penalties to be wholly disproportionate to the alleged offences.

According to Principle 11 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression adopted by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organisation of American States, and therefore binding on Ecuador, “laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as ‘desacato laws’, restrict freedom of expression and the right to information”.

We remind you that Principle 10 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression establishes that “the protection of a person’s reputation should only be guaranteed through civil sanctions in those cases in which the person offended is a public official, a public person, or a private person who has voluntarily become involved in matters of public interest”.

We also remind you that as stated in Principle 11, “public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society”.

In this context, we must reiterate our concerns over your call for the imprisonment of Emilio Palacio, Carlos Pérez Barriga, César Pérez Barriga and Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, and the excessively punitive amount requested in damages.

We fear the intimidation of the media through the courts is encouraging a culture of self-censorship and is promoting a chilling effect across public debate.

We therefore urge you to drop the charges against El Universo, its three senior executives and Mr Palacio, and ensure that any future actions brought against the media avoid contravening internationally acknowledged standards of freedom of expression.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,


Gavin O’Reilly
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Erik Bjerager
World Editors Forum


WAN-IFRA is the global organization for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organization groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.


Andrew Heslop's picture

Andrew Heslop


2011-06-13 11:15

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...