For the last couple of weeks the news in Ecuador has been dominated by a court case that throws into doubt the future of freedom of expression in this small Andean nation.
President Rafael Correa has sued the journalist Emilio Palacio and three board members of the newspaper El Universo for allegations Palacio made in an article calling the president a dictator and murderer.
The article refers to the police uprising on the 30th of September when Correa was kidnapped by rogue elements of the Ecuadorian police force and held hostage in a military hospital.
In the article Palacio calls the President Correa a dictator 8 times and accuses him of ordering the military to use lethal force during the presidents rescue. The Newspaper from Guayaquil that is being sued, El Universo, is often referred to as the mouth-piece of the countries astronomically wealthy elite class.
Judging by the article Emilio Palacio seems like one of those snake-skin journalists that skews the news as well as the finest and most manipulative FOX News anchormen. His skills probably suit him more for celebrity gossip than balanced political journalism but that does not mean should not be able to express his opinion.
The Right to Express Ourselves Freely
This is a stupid and downright dangerous move by President Correa, one that has made a martyr out of Palacio and legitimized this journalists’ outlandish ravings. It has made Correa look like the very thing his enemies have tried to paint him as – a dictator.
According to the court ruling Emilio Palacio and the three directors of El Universo owe President Correa $42 million in damages and are sentenced to three years in jail – a punishment completely disproportional to the so called crime.
The case is currently being appealed and Emilio Palacio has fled Ecuador in the last few days to seek exile in the United States where he continues his uneding diatribe against the president.
I have admired much of what I have seen Rafael Correa do here in Ecuador for the past four years compared to the corrupt presidents of the past. This incident however has made me question him for the first time – the right to express yourself freely is one of our fundamental rights as human beings and should not be taken for granted.
¡Que Viva la Libertad de Expression!