A district court judge has convicted a newspaper editorial writer of insulting the head of the Ecuador government’s National Financial Corporation and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Emilio Palacio, who works for the newspaper El Universo, also was ordered to pay legal costs of $10,000 (€7,500).
The case centred on an August 27 editorial that made fun of official Camilo Saman for supposedly sending bodyguards to the newspaper to complain about a news story. While a group of people did show up objecting to the article, Mr Saman’s guards were not there.
Gutemberg Vera, the lawyer representing Mr Saman, praised the court’s action.
“A journalist can say whatever he wants, but if you insult, but if it offends, as it was by Mr Emilio Palacio, he must be punished,” Mr Vera said.
Palacio called the sentence “a demonstration that here there is only political power, there is a total concentration of power”.
The National Financial Corporation is an agency of leftist President Rafael Correa’s government that channels resources through banks and other intermediaries to finance projects.
The Inter American Press Association expressed concerns that Mr Correa wants to muzzle critical media in much the same way as President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
Like Mr Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Mr Correa is striving to remake his South American nation by redistributing wealth and giving a stronger voice to the poor. That has made him popular with many Ecuadoreans, but also brought strong opposition.