01 April 2011

IAPA assails ‘abusive attitude’ of Ecuador’s President Correa

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Miami (April 1, 2011)—The American Press Association (IAPA) today described as “abusive, ridiculous and out of line” the attitude of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa in his bringing a criminal charge against executives of a newspaper in his country, who if convicted for publishing opinions in the paper could face up to three years in prison and have to pay $80 million in fines.
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Miami (April 1, 2011)—The American Press Association (IAPA) today described as “abusive, ridiculous and out of line” the attitude of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa in his bringing a criminal charge against executives of a newspaper in his country, who if convicted for publishing opinions in the paper could face up to three years in prison and have to pay $80 million in fines. 

Correa on March 21 brought the charge of libel against the newspaper El Universo and its executives over an op-ed piece by Emilio Palacio in which he accused the president of having ordered a hospital to be attacked during a September 30, 2010 police revolt. 

In the lawsuit Correa seeks reparations of $80 million, $30 million of which should be paid by the newspaper and the other $50 million by executives Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez and by Palacio, who serves as editor of the op-ed section. He has in addition called for those responsible to be sent to prison for three years. 

“This abusive, ridiculous and out of line attitude of the President does not surprise us,” said IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín. He added that Correa, having brought other million-dollar lawsuits against journalists and in light of his ongoing diatribe against the press, “is always looking for ways to censor the media or for them to resort to self-censorship.” 

Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, added that the suit being brought by Correa “is an abuse of privilege, as being a public official he should be tolerant of criticism, as is established by principles of freedom of expression in the international political treaties which the Ecuadorean government had signed.” 

Meanwhile, the co-chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, expressed even greater concern at the decision “that the judges could take if these were not independent or subject to the political powers.” 

Paolillo, editor of the Uruguayan weekly news magazine Búsqueda, was referring to the referendum that President Correa is planning for May 7, which has two main objectives – to legalize the power of the Presidency to directly appoint judges, and to get involved in freedom to do business and press freedom matters, in requesting that news media owners cannot be proprietors of other kinds of businesses and that there be created a governmental press council that could censor news content. 

Marroquín and Paolillo said that “without the independence of the judiciary we fear that any court ruling, no matter how absurd it may appear, could prosper” and that “without a free press there could never be true democracy.” 

In addition to the current criminal libel lawsuit against El Universo Correa in February brought one against journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita over their book “El gran hermano” (Big Brother), in which questions were raised about contracts taken out by the President’s brother, Fabricio Correa, with the government. The suit calls for them to be fined $10 million.

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.

 

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