According to reports, on the 22 March President Correa filed a US$30 million lawsuit for damages against newspaper company El Universo, along with a US$50 million criminal defamation suit against three of its senior executives - Carlos Pérez Barriga, César Pérez Barriga and Nicolás Pérez Lapentti - and one of its journalists, Emilio Palacio. If convicted, the four men also face three-year prison sentences.
The case stems from an opinion piece written by Mr Palacio and published in El Universo on 6 February criticising the President’s role during the 30 September 2010 police uprising in Ecuador.
In a letter to President Correa, WAN-IFRA called for all charges against the newspaper and its staff to be dropped, reminding him of the inappropriateness “of a nation’s president seeking to imprison journalists and bankrupt a newspaper because of an opinion article.”
The global press organisation also expressed concern over the possible outcome for the media of an upcoming referendum due to take place on 7 May. Proposals to create a Regulatory Council that would be empowered to regulate and establish ultimate responsibility for media content, as well as a ban on privately-owned news companies, their directors and principal shareholders from owning any shares outside the news business, are being opposed by a broad sector of civil society and private media groups.
In an effort to end what appears to be a growing pattern of harassment of the press, WAN-IFRA urged President Correa “to fully respect international standards of freedom of expression” whatever the outcome of the referendum.
Read the full letter here.