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Magazine's equipment seized during police operation

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 17 December 2010, at approximately 5:45 p.m., personnel from the Quito headquarters of the "Vanguardia" magazine were evicted from their offices and the magazine's equipment was seized. The seized equipment included servers, computers and design equipment. The raid followed an order for a preventive seizure of assets because the lease on the building that houses the magazine is being disputed and the building itself has been impounded.

The police intervention was a dramatic affair, with members of the Intervention and Rescue Group (GIR, in Spanish) bursting into the newsroom wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests and carrying machine guns.

Juan Carlos Calderón, the magazine's editor-in-chief, told Fundamedios that he counted up to 15 members of this elite police squad, four police cars and cameras from two state-owned TV stations. "As well as taking our servers, central processors and design equipment, the policemen searched the journalists' bags . . . even I was searched," he said. He stated that the measures taken by the police were disproportionate and an "outrage" against the producers of "Vanguardia".

According to Calderón, even though the police arrived at the magazine's offices with a notice ordering the payment of all lease-related debts within three days, they immediately took everything.

The magazine's manager, Luis Zumárraga, said the money for the lease had been deposited at a tenancy tribunal and that, as such, the police operation was totally illegal.

"I hope for the good of the country that this is not some kind of reprisal against us and our editorial line," said Calderón, who went on to report that the order had been signed by Pedro Delgado, president of the AGD-CFN Trust Board.

The editor pointed out that, luckily, the magazine's next issue had already been sent to the printers.

On the evening of 17 December the magazine's directors attempted to hold a press conference in one of the capital's hotels, but were forced to move to another location.

"Vanguardia" has been criticized by the president of the republic on different occasions during his Saturday broadcasts because of its editorial line.

It is also worth mentioning that Calderón is one of the authors of the book "El Gran Hermano", which questions contracts for millions of dollars in which the president's brother, Fabricio Correa, has been involved.

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