21 September 2010

Alert

Journalists subjected to insults and harassment after publishing investigative book


Incident details

Intimidation

Juan Carlos Calderón, Journalist
Christian Zurita, Journalist

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(Fundamedios/IFEX) - Journalists Juan Carlos Calderón, former editor of newspaper "Diario Expreso", and Christian Zurita, current investigations editor of the same paper, have been subjected to a series of discrediting comments and insults. These began immediately after the publication of the book "El Gran Hermano", which includes an in-depth investigation about the contracts of Fabricio Correa, the Ecuadorian president's brother, with the State.

On 1 September 2010, the authors and their publisher, Editorial Paradiso, received a letter written by María de los Ángeles Duarte, Minister of Transport and Public Works. In the letter, the minister questioned the caption of a photograph included in the book, which mentions her part in the concession of a contract to the president's brother, which in Duarte's opinion is "erroneous" and "unsubstantiated". Duarte demanded that the caption be changed and requested that "the book be withdrawn from circulation, and they should abstain from publishing photographs with captions that do not correspond to the events". Finally, the minister stated that "if the information is not immediately corrected, I reserve the right to resort to legal action".

The book's authors claim that everything that was included in the book is true and that their investigation is backed by evidence. They dismissed the accusation that they had offended anyone with "malice".

On 6 September, Gama TV, a station that was seized by the State, broadcast a special program, more than an hour long, titled "Journalistic Investigation under Analysis". The program provided an opportunity for two high-ranking state officials - Alexis Mera, the Presidency's Legal Secretary, and Galo Mora, Personal Secretary to the President - to discredit the journalistic investigation. Mera stated that the book is, in legal terms, "complete rubbish" and that the journalists are "frauds". Mora said that an "evidently political position against the citizens' revolution" colours the book and that the president's status and reputation has been affected.

On 13 September, during an interview carried out by Ecuavisa TV network, Mera attacked the journalists once again, saying they have a "perverse and politicized attitude". He also called them "liars" and "despicable" and threatened on three occasions to summon the journalists. However, lawyers consulted by Fundamedios have said that the Presidency's Legal Secretary is neither a judge nor a prosecutor and, therefore, cannot request legal declarations from the journalists.

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