Reporters Without Borders is pleased to learn that retired journalist Carlos Núñez was released on 14 July after 19 days in detention. Núñez was arrested on 26 June after being convicted in absentia as a result of a libel suit brought against him 10 years ago.
At the time of his arrest, he was completely unaware he had been convicted over an article he wrote 12 years go for the now defunct pro-communist newspaper Crítica about environmental problems in the Bocas del Toro archipelago in the northwestern province of Chiriquí.
“I am here for defending the region’s inhabitants and the people who fight for respect for the environment,” he said as he left prison. Reporters Without Borders welcomes his release but points out that the case is one more example of the harassment to which journalists are subjected when they dare to tackle sensitive issues.
29.06.10 - Retired journalist arrested to serve jail sentence he was unaware of
Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn of the extraordinary manner in which Carlos Jerónimo Nuñez López, a 70-year-old former journalist who used to work for the now-defunct communist newspaper Crítica, was arrested on 26 June to serve a one-year jail sentence for an article about an environmental issue that he wrote in the 1990s.
Nuñez was completely unaware that he had been convicted in absentia on charges of libel and insult in connection with the article. He was in an Internet café near his home when police came to notify him of his sentence and arrest him. He was taken into police custody and was due to appear in court yesterday.
Nuñez’s offending article in Crítica was about the environmental damage resulting from a landowner’s activities in the northwestern Bocas del Toro archipelago. He was never told that a libel suit had been brought against him.
Reporters Without Borders calls for Nuñez’s immediate release and for the courts to review his conviction. How could he have been properly defended if he was unaware of the lawsuit and was convicted in absentia?
His arrest is a direct violation of free expression and as well as flagrant violation of the fundamental right to a fair trial. The case also highlights the danger to which journalists are exposed when they dare to tackle environmental issues.