Retired journalist arrested to serve jail sentence he was unaware of
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||29 June 2010|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, Retired journalist arrested to serve jail sentence he was unaware of, 29 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c2d9cf11e.html [accessed 21 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
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.