Global Freedom of Expression

Second Turn Departmental Prosecutor of Tacuarembó v. La Kandela

In Progress Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    February 5, 2024
  • Outcome
    Decision Outcome (Disposition/Ruling), Judgment in Favor of Defendant
  • Case Number
  • Region & Country
    Uruguay, Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation, Press Freedom
  • Tags
    Criminal Defamation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Court No. 1 of Tacuarembó (Uruguay) held that a public prosecutor couldn’t file a complaint for slander and libel against the newspaper La Kandela—and its legal representatives—for publishing an article criticizing the actions of the Ministry of the Interior, and its cabinet minister, in a case of property seizure. Tacuarembo’s Second Turn Departmental Public Prosecutor, Ms. Irene Penza, filed a complaint against La Kandela, Sebastián Ríos, and Jorge Del Pino, for slander and defamation arguing that an article accusing the Ministry of the Interior, and its cabinet minister, Matías Rodríguez, of favoring citizen Jorge Correa in an investigation regarding the seizure of his property, was false and offensive. The defendants, for their part, requested the annulment of  Penza’s complaint on the grounds that she lacked the authority to initiate criminal proceedings for defamation and slander. The Court held that the new Uruguayan Code of Criminal Procedure provides that complaints for the private offense of defamation and slander must be filed by the persons affected or injured by the false or offensive news. Consequently, it ruled that the complaint filed by prosecutor Penza was null and void and ordered the case to be closed.


On 5 December 2002, Ms. Irena Penza, Second Turn Departamental Public Prosecutor of Tacuarembó, filed a criminal complaint against media outlet La Kandela and its representatives, Mr. Sebastián Ríos and Mr. Jorge Del Pino, for the crime of defamation and slander under Uruguayan Law 16.099.

Penza argued that, in an article published on 13 November 2023 and republished on 17 November of the same year, La Kandela disseminated false and insulting content against the Ministry of the Interior of Uruguay and its cabinet minister, Mr. Matías Rodríguez. The prosecutor held that the article was defamatory because it published information regarding alleged improper actions on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior—concerning the seizure of a property located in the area of Rincón de Tranqueras, Uruguay—to benefit the owner, Mr. Jorge Correa. She specified that the news article held that the Ministry of the Interior was harassing the people living on Mr. Correa’s property to assist him because of his friendship with cabinet minister Matías Rodríguez. Furthermore, the prosecutor also stated that La Kandela had falsely accused Mr. Correa of illegal activities without any evidence. In light of these allegations, she considered that Matías Rodríguez and the Ministry’s honor had been damaged.

Prosecutor Irene Penza requested “a four-month prison sentence and a fine of fifteen Uruguayan pesos against those responsible for the media outlet La Kandela unless they publicly retract their statements and offer the right to a reply to those affected by the slander.” [par. 1]

On 6 December 2023, Court No. 1 of Tacuarembó accepted the complaint filed by the public prosecutor, Irene Penza, and summoned the defendants Sebastián Ríos and Jorge Del Pino, acting as representatives of La Kandela,  to a hearing on 2 February 2024.

On 29 January 2024, the defendants Sebastián Ríos and Jorge Del Pino replied to the complaint filed by Penza, requesting the annulment and dismissal of the case. The defendants argued that in Uruguay’s criminal and procedural system, prosecutors cannot file complaints for private offenses such as defamation since only the victims have standing for it. They stated that Penza lacked the authority to file a complaint for defamation in this case, and reiterated their annulment and dismissal request regarding the proceedings.

Decision Overview

Judge José Ignacio Silvestri García, who presides over Court No. 1 of Tacuarembó, had to decide whether the public prosecutor, Irene Penza, had the right to file a complaint against the defendants—Sebastián Ríos and Jorge Del Pino, representatives of media outlet La Kandela— for slander and defamation after publishing a news article criticizing actions from the Ministry of the Interior and its cabinet minister, Mr. Matías Rodríguez, on a property seizure case.

According to the claimant, La Kandela published two articles falsely accusing Matías Rodriguez and the Ministry of the Interior of harassing the occupants of a property owned by Mr. Jorge Correa. The prosecutor also explained that the media outlet reported, without any evidence, that the Ministry of the Interior had intervened to assist Correa because of his friendship with Rodríguez.

For their part, the defendants argued that the public prosecutor lacked the legal authority to bring charges for private offenses such as defamation and slander under Law 16.099. Therefore, they requested the annulment and dismissal of the proceedings.

According to the Judge’s analysis, Article 35 of Law 16.099 allowed prosecutors to file complaints for the private crime of defamation. However, the Judge held that the new Uruguayan Code of Criminal Procedure,  as per Article 404, repealed all provisions contrary to the new criminal procedure. In this regard, the Judge recalled that the new Code of Criminal Procedure established that complaints for private crimes—such as defamation and slander—must be brought by the affected or injured parties, thus excluding the Public Prosecutor’s Office from initiating criminal proceedings in this type of cases.

The Judge went on to explain that in the present case, it had not been verified that those offended or affected by the news published by La Kandela had filed a complaint for the crime of defamation and slander—rather, only Penza had initiated criminal proceedings on her own initiative, in opposition to the new Uruguayan Code of Criminal Procedure. Hence, the Judge reiterated that “the complaint of the victims, or those affected by the news, is necessary to initiate criminal proceedings for the crime of defamation and slander.” [para. 3]

Moreover, the Judge said that Article 18 of the Uruguayan Constitution established the principle of legality in criminal matters. In light of this, the Judge considered that initiating criminal proceedings based on Penza’s complaint violated the aforementioned principle since defamation and slander complaints could only be filed by the persons affected or injured by false, offensive, or aggravating news.

Considering the above reasons, Judge Silvestri declared the annulment of the proceedings brought by prosecutor Penza against La Kandela and its representatives, Sebastian Ríos and Jorge del Pinto, and closed the case.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

Although the Court did not explicitly analyze this case through the lens of the right to freedom of expression, this decision expands it by limiting who can initiate criminal proceedings in slander and defamation cases, restricting the Office of the Prosecutor’s authority in this regard. By barring public prosecutors from filing criminal complaints regarding news articles that may be upsetting or offensive, and recognizing that this standing is exclusive to the person concerned, freedom of expression is protected vigorously from State interference.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Uru., Code of Criminal Procedure (2015)
  • Uru., Law 16099 (1989)
  • Uru., Constitution of Uruguay (1966), Art. 18

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents


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