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Journalist threatened after refusing to hand over information

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 13 November 2008, journalist Daisy Pico, a correspondent for the "Diario Expreso" newspaper, said she is being threatened and harassed by Mauricio Montesdeoca Martinetti. Montesdeoca Martinetti has been identified in police reports as being the person known by the pseudonym of "El Justiciero" ("The Avenger"). He has been accused of being a hired killer and is alleged to have assassinated suspected criminals in the province of Manabí.

The journalist was threatened after she refused to give Montesdeoca Martinetti additional information relating to articles published in April 2008 about hired killers, drug trafficking and people smuggling ("coyoterismo") in the city of Manta, Manabí province, on Ecuador's central coast.

Montesdeoca Martinetti announced that he would be conducting "criminal cleansing" raids in the province, for which he contacted Pico via an intermediary so she could hand over to him part of her journalistic information.

Pico refused to hand over the information because it is confidential. As a result, unidentified individuals have been warning her since May to stop investigating criminal activities in Manabí because "'El Justiciero' is following her closely." They have also warned her to be careful, stressing that she has three daughters in her care.

The journalist has also been publicly discredited. On 4 November, after a report about Montesdeoca Martinetti was published, he accused Pico of conspiring against him with police officer Luis Martínez to involve him in a series of murders that have taken place in Manta.

In May, when the threats started, Pico filed a complaint with the Manabí Police. The police offered her protection for a month and a half but this was later withdrawn due to a procedural issue.

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