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Defamation lawsuit aimed at silencing journalist Daniel Coronell should be dismissed, Reporters Committee attorneys argue

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  1. Libel and Privacy
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press attorneys have asked a Florida state court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against…

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press attorneys have asked a Florida state court to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against journalist and President of News for Univision Daniel Coronell over an opinion column he published about Colombian attorney Abelardo de la Espriella in January.

The column, which ran in Colombia’s Spanish-language newsmagazine Semana, offered commentary on De la Espriella’s famed legal career and lavish lifestyle, including his tastes in designer clothes, watches, and luxury travel on private jets.

One month after the column was published, De la Espriella sued Cornell for “defamation by implication,” claiming that while the facts in the column were accurate, they implied that De la Espriella “has engaged in illegal activities, tax evasion, influence peddling, bribery or corrupt activities.” Since De la Espriella filed the lawsuit, Coronell has been threatened with another defamation by implication claim from a well-known Colombian businessman believed to be associated with De la Espriella.

In a motion to dismiss the case under Florida’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law, Reporters Committee attorneys representing Coronell argued that the lawsuit is part of a legal campaign designed to burden and harass Coronell and to stop him from writing about powerful Colombians. Anti-SLAPP laws are intended to guard against frivolous lawsuits aimed at discouraging or halting speech about public figures or issues.

Reporters Committee attorneys also argued that De la Espriella, a public figure in Colombia, failed to demonstrate that Cornell’s opinion column met the requirements for a defamation by implication claim because, among other things, it is protected opinion under the First Amendment.

If the court dismisses the case under Florida’s anti-SLAPP law, Coronell will be allowed to seek to have De la Espriella reimburse him for the legal fees he incurred in fighting the lawsuit.