U.S. grants asylum to Ecuadorian journalist accused of defaming President Correa

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  • August 31, 2012

By Liliana Honorato

The Ecuadorian journalist who had been sentenced to three years in prison and fined millions of dollars for allegedly defaming Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has been granted asylum by the United States, according to the Guardian.

Emilio Palacio, opinion editor for the newspaper El Universo, was sued by President Correa in March 2011 after publishing a column in which he called the president a dictator, among other things. Palacio sought refuge in Miami in August 2011. His final sentence was levied in February 2012. Palacio later requested asylum in the U.S. even though President Correa dropped the libel suit against him and the directors of the newspaper.

Palacio said the U.S. government's decision should be interpreted as "firm support for freedom of expression in Ecuador," according to Última Hora.

The U.S. government's decision to grant Palacio asylum comes days after the Ecuadorian government announced its controversial decision to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange and Correa make odd bedfellows: Assange is known for promoting transparency and freedom of expression while the Correa administration is known for its combative relationship with the national and international press.

"Ecuador is one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that still criminalizes expression offensive to public officials," said Palacio's lawyer, according to the Ecuadorian non-governmental organization Fundamedios.

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.