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Journalists face second legal action in connection with investigative book

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 28 April 2011 - Investigative journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita, authors of the book "El Gran Hermano", which reveals information about contracts between Fabricio Correa, the president's brother, and the State, are facing a new civil lawsuit for "moral damages" filed in a personal capacity by the Minister of Transport and Public Works, María de los Ángeles Duarte.

According to the Judiciary's web page, the complaint was presented on 25 March 2011 before the Provincial Court of Pichincha and will be heard by the 21st Civil Court under case number: 2011-0535. The web page also states that the lawsuit is going ahead. However, the parties involved have not been summoned yet.

The minister raised concerns about the caption published with a photograph in which she appears, which states that Fabricio Correa was awarded a contract worth millions during her term at the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing; a fact that Duarte has denied because, according to statements made to government owned media, at that time she was no longer in charge of the ministry, but campaigning for the mayoralty of Guayaquil, and the contract was signed months after she left her ministry post.

On 1 September 2010, the authors of "El Gran Hermano" and their publishers received the first letter from Duarte in which she questioned the photograph's caption. Twenty days later, the minister threatened Calderón with legal action if sold copies of the book were not retrieved and he did not prevent "their distribution, considering that they contain allegations that are not true."

The book's authors asserted, at the time, that everything that was included in the book is true and that their investigative reports are backed by evidence.

Calderón told Fundamedios that the minister has acted on her threat by filing this lawsuit. As to the motives for the legal action, the journalist said that the minister's concerns were addressed at the appropriate time and that the book's second edition even includes Duarte's version of events. As a result, Calderón believes that they have complied with any action required in response to the official's letter.

This is the second lawsuit for "moral damages" faced by the journalists and authors of the book. The first cased was filed by President Rafael Correa for a total amount of US$10 million.

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