Image via WikipediaThe Ecuadorian daily El Universo's appeal of a $40 million libel judgment in favor of the country's President, Rafael Correa, was delayed this week by the illness of a member of the three-judge panel hearing the appeal, CNN reports.
President Correa, the 48-year-old economist who assumed leadership of the South American republic in 2008, was awarded $40 million last July in a ruling that also resulted in three-year jail terms for El Universo's former opinions editor and its directors. A column entitled No to lies that appeared in February 2011, which branded Correa a "dictator" responsible for a September 2010, attack in which security forces allegedly fired on civilians in a hospital, triggered the lawsuit by the president, who dismissed the allegations as false and an "outrage," according to the CNN account.
President Correa has rejected El Universo's offer of a public apology conditioned, in part, on his dropping his suit against journalists and following the nation's access to public information law. In the U.S., a government entity can't be defamed and a public official suing for libel must overcome the challenging legal hurdle of proving "actual malice," meaning that the media defendant published false statements about the official knowing they were untrue or with reckless disregard for the falsity of the statements that impugned the official's reputation.