Miami (November 25, 2020) .- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed concern about the lack of resolution of the Ecuadorian Justice that has not rectified a 10-day jail ruling against a journalist, despite the fact that the plaintiff, a provincial governor, resigned from office at the request of President Lenín Moreno.
The governor of Napo, Patricio Espíndola, resigned yesterday by direct request from President Moreno after Espíndola filed a criminal complaint about moral and emotional damage against journalist Juan Sarmiento who had been criticizing the governor in the news portal Tendencia Digital (Digital Trend) and on social media for his mismanagement during the health emergency caused by Covid-19.
The Provincial Court of Justice of Napo ratified on November 12 a ruling of a lower court that sentenced Sarmiento to 10 days in prison, payment of $ 100, and a public apology. Sarmiento's lawyer filed an appeal to challenge the sentence.
The president of the IAPA, Jorge Canahuati, stressed that "We were surprised by the ruling because it takes us back to dark hours in Latin America, in which contempt prevailed as a resource that the authorities used to protect themselves from criticism by sending journalists to the jail". Canahuati, president of Grupo Opsa, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, added, "it is a contradiction that a journalist faces a prison sentence for reporting on issues of public interest, when on the contrary the matter should be taken as an alert to correct problems that affect the population."
The president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, stated that "precisely this case demonstrates the need to decriminalize defamation in Ecuador, to prevent the punishment of jail from inhibiting journalism from continuing to comply its oversee role in society ". Jornet, director of the newspaper La Voz del Interior, Córdoba, Argentina, referred to the Declaration of Chapultepec, signed in February 2019 by President Moreno, which states that, "no journalist may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government," a principle also included in the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.