Correa, attempting to address police protesting regarding pay issues, took refuge in a hospital and was finally rescued by the army. The newspaper, however, questioned the events of the army rescue, saying the president ordered authorities to fire on the hospital where there were civilians.
The author of the story, Emilio Palacio, along with the owners of the newspaper, were handed three years in jail. The paper faces an additional $40 million in fines.
Amid international criticism, Ecuador has sought to defend itself. The new ambassador to the US, Nathalie Cely, wrote in an op-ed in the Miami Herald, “To be very clear, no journalist in Ecuador has gone to jail, been kidnapped or paid a significant fine in the five years of the Correa presidency, even though El Universo, the newspaper owned by the Pérez family that these media watchdogs defend, published a scurrilous column about the president and an attempted coup against him that was factually untrue and far beyond any reasonable norm for criticism.”
But this case does not stand alone. Others journalists have been sued, including two investigative reporters who wrote a book called “Big Brother” about the business deals of Correa’s brother.
Tomorrow, the Organization of American States (OAS) meets for a reform vote pushed by Ecuador, to strip the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of some of her powers. She has been critical of Correa, who, in return, has accused the rapporteur of serving the interests of big media.