QUITO – An editorial writer for Ecuadorian daily El Universo was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for insulting and offending the honor of the head of a government agency in one of his columns.
As part of Friday’s sentence, which is subject to appeal, Judge Carmen Arguello also ordered Palacio to pay $10,000 in legal costs.
The judge said prosecutors proved the journalist was guilty of “crimes against honor: libelous insults and serious non-libelous insults” against Camilo Saman, with “no extenuating circumstances.”
According to El Universo, Saman, head of the government’s National Financial Corporation, or CFN, filed a criminal complaint against Palacio over an editorial that was published on Aug. 27, 2009, and titled “Camilo the Bully.”
The editorial was written after a group of ruling party supporters protested outside the newspaper’s offices against an earlier published article concerning delays by the agency in granting micro-loans, the newspaper reported.
In his column, Palacio mocked Saman and accused him of sending his bodyguards to intimidate reporters, according to local media.
“This sentence is proof that the entire country is subjected to the will of a dictator who has sent a crystal clear message ... that here you can’t open your mouth, that you have to stay silent,” Palacio, who was referring to leftist President Rafael Correa, was quoted as saying.
For his part, Saman’s defense attorney, Gutemberg Vera, said the judge’s sentence demonstrated that respect for the law exists in Ecuador.
The president of the CFN, an agency that channels development funds, also has filed a $3 million lawsuit against Palacio for “moral damages.”