H. E. Dr. Julio Maria Sanguinetti
President of the Republic
Office of the President

Vienna, 30 May 1996

Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI) strongly condemns the jailing of two Uruguayan journalists for smearing the image of a foreign head of state.

On 23 May 1996, the brothers Federico and Carlos Fasano, director and editor-in-chief respectively of the weekly La Republica were sentenced by the criminal judge Zulma Casanova to two years in prison for a story accusing the President of Paraguay of corruption. In February La Republica had linked Paraguay’s President Juan Carlos Wasmosy with an alleged US$ 30 million fraud during the building of the hydroelectric dam in Itaipu. We understand that Judge Casanova’s decision was based on a law which allows for sentences of two to nine years imprisonment for persons who attack the honour of a foreign head of state on Uruguayan territory.

IPI has been pleased to note that there have been no major threats to press freedom in Uruguay since the new coalition government took over last year. It is therefore with concern that we view this decision taken by the criminal court, which we regard to be in violation of the right to “seek, receive and impart information,” as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

IPI, a global network of editors and media executives from newspapers, magazines, broadcasting organisations and news agencies in 85 countries, urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure that the two journalists are released immediately and unconditionally. We also ask that you initiate a thorough review of the law under which they were charged.

We thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz