Colombian Supreme Court reverses decision to sue journalist for defamation

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  • August 29, 2012

By Liliana Honorato

On Monday, Aug. 27, the criminal division of the Colombian Supreme Court reversed its decision to sue journalist Cecilia Orozco Tascón for libel and slander, reported the Foundation for Press Freedom. The Court charged Orozco on Aug. 23, after she published an opinion column in the newspaper El Espectador questioning the criminal division's decisions.

While the Court dropped the libel suit, the criminal division continues to criticize Orozco's opinions along with those of journalist María Jimena Duzán. The court has asked the journalists to "reflect," reported El Colombiano and El Tiempo. Duzán was warned but not threatened with a libel suit for her opinions published in the magazine Semana.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) applauded the Supreme Court's decision not to sue Orozco for libel and slander, "as otherwise it would have been an abuse of privilege embroiled in a serious conflict of interest.” Chairman of IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information Gustavo Mohme said in a press release, “We should bear in mind that when this kind of denunciation is made by those in authority it could lead to self-censorship by creating a feeling that exercising the right to freedom of opinion can be punished.”

The International Press Institute (IPI) also expressed its approval of the decision. According to the IPI website, Deputy Director Anthony Mills said, “The Colombian Supreme Court has made the correct choice not to pursue defamation charges in this case," but added that the charges never should have been brought in the first place. "Journalists in a democratic country have the right to criticize and question the actions of their government," Mills said.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.