MIAMI, Florida (November 18, 2016)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today requested that there be left without effect an order for the arrest of Ecuadorean journalist Fernando Villavicencio, on the grounds that the confidential information that he reported on in cases of corruption in the public administration is of great interest for members of the public.
On November 14 National Court of Justice Judge Jorge Blum ordered the arrest of journalist and political activist Villavicencio, director of the Web site Focus Ecuador, accusing him of disclosing confidential information, obtained from e-mails of President Rafael Correa, the Vice President, the Legal Affairs Secretary of the Presidency and the Attorney General that were said to have been used to publish an article on the Web site Plan V in which there were disclosed acts of corruption in the state-owned oil company.
Villavicencio if found guilty would face three years in prison. The arrest order was also extended to former member of Congress Cléver Jiménez, to whom the journalist was an adviser.
IAPA President Matt Sanders, senior editor and general manager of Deseret Digital Media, Salt Lake City, Utah, said, "This is a typical case of values in conflict when a government uses the law to punish news coverage and journalistic sources, and in this way cover up a serious problem of corruption of great interest to the general public, and so dissuade its continuing to be denounced."
For his part the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, La Silla Rota, Mexico City, Mexico, added, "Once more it is shown how the criminalization of a journalistic task is used to dissuade the journalist and his or her sources from continuing with denunciations, which is contrary to standards of press freedom that involve people that administer public affairs."
The case dates back to December 2013 following a raid on the home of Villavicencio, at the time Jiménez' advisor, during which seized were computers, other electronic equipment and documents containing information concerning acts of corruption. Jimenez' office was also raided.
In another criminal proceedings Villavicencio and Jiménez were sentenced in April 2013 to 18 months in prison on a charge of defamation of President Rafael Correa. Neither of the two served the sentence due to the fact that they went into hiding until the conviction became subject to a statute of limitations in March 2015 and they returned to public life.
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.