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Minister takes legal action against journalist for defamation and slander

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 10 May 2006, the trial against journalist Julio Balza, columnist for the daily "El Nuevo País", will begin. Balza has been accused of defamation and slander by Infrastructure Minister Ramón Carrizales.

According to the minister, Balza infringed upon his "right to live with honor" and damaged his reputation when he published, in several March issues of his column "Arroz con Mango", that the minister is "useless", in reference to the minister's performance after one of the bridges of the highway that connects the state of Vargas with Caracas collapsed.

On 8 April, the journalist was detained by officials of the Institute for Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations when he failed to appear at the Ninth Court after being summoned several times. He was set free a few hours later, after he agreed to appear before the court on 11 April. Balza declared that he had not appeared before due to health reasons.

International treaties on human rights state that the right to respond in the same newspaper where the accusation was made is the ideal way of offsetting freedom of speech excesses, rather than resorting to legal action.

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