July 17, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

After supreme court quashes libel conviction, decriminalization next?

Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday’s supreme court decision to overturn newspaper editor Luis Agustín González’s criminal libel conviction for criticizing the former governor of the central department of Cundinamarca, and hopes it will be a prelude to the decriminalization of media offences in Colombia. The ruling quashed the sentence of 18 months in prison and fine of 9.5 million pesos (5,450 dollars) that a Cundinamarca court passed on González, editor of the regional Cundinamarca Democrática newspaper, in February 2012 for a 2008 editorial accusing Governor Leonor Serrano de Camargo of “arrogance” and despotism.” “The supreme court’s decision is clearly a victory for editorial freedom as the court ruled that González’s article contributed to the political debate,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But it is only a partial victory, because the court said freedom of opinion is not absolute and that, under the law, journalists can still be convicted of criminal defamation.” “This case highlights the urgent need to decriminalize defamation and insult. Only Argentina and Uruguay have so far taken this step in South America. Jailing journalists, bloggers and other news providers in this type of case not only fails to redress any damage that may have been done, it also serves as a dangerous incentive for censorship or self-censorship.” Picture : Colprensa