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President files US$10 million lawsuit against two investigative journalists

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado has filed a lawsuit against Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita, investigative journalists and authors of the book "Gran Hermano" (Big Brother). The lawsuit is based on the book's content, a journalistic investigation into contracts signed between the president's brother, Fabricio Correa, and the State.

According to the Pichincha Judiciary's website, the suit was filed on 28 February 2011 in the 5th Civil Tribunal with docket number 2011-0265 and was certified by Dr. Luis Ron Villavicencio, secretary in charge. President Correa is named in the suit as the offended party. Calderón told Fundamedios that he had found out about the lawsuit after he saw a notice to this effect on the Judiciary's site.

The amount requested as reparations for moral damage by President Correa in his lawsuit is US$10 million. The president claims the book contains "unauthorized images of himself and his brother", as well as "unauthorized passages that infringe on the right to intellectual property, as they make reference to other persons and are offensive, degrading and demeaning . . . ".

The president's submission also states that "the book, as well as containing false information, damages, wounds, sullies my dignity and my good name . . . by attempting to make me appear as a corrupt and dishonest person, even putting into doubt my professional integrity by insinuating and linking me to unreal, nonexistent and false, absolutely false, situations".

During an interview with the news site Ecuadorinmediato.com, the president called the journalists "malicious, pseudo writers" and asserted that the book is "false and libellous, from its front page to page 460, including the index" and that it was written in such a manner as to refer false and unreal events that show "the predominance of 'animus injuriandi' (a desire to offend) in the whole book".

According to the chief of state, the book tells "in a malicious, criminal and reckless way", of the alleged passion for power of the Correa Delgado family, and is especially aimed at discrediting his good name and reputation.

On 21 March, the president said during a radio interview that the book's authors would have to present evidence of their assertions before the law. He also suggested that he will file a lawsuit against Emilio Palacio, feature writer for "El Universo" newspaper, and the paper's editors, who are also responsible for what is published.

Fundamedios expresses its solidarity and support for Calderón and Zurita and condemns the president's attempt to sue for US$10 million two investigative journalists whose only income is their salaries. Such an action has an intimidating effect and serves as a warning to any journalist who wants to investigate those in power. Fundamedios feels, therefore, that this action places the rights and freedoms of expression and the press at serious risk.
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