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Prosecutor asks for prison sentence and US$1.5 million from journalists and directors of Manabí media group

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 12 May 2011 - Gloria Alexandra Bravo Cedeño, a prosecutor in the city of Manta, 319 km southwest of Quito, has filed a lawsuit for insult against five directors and journalists of the Medios Ediasa media group, which includes the newspapers "El Diario" and "La Marea", the Manavisión TV station and radio station Amiga. Bravo said she was "offended" after the media outlets reported on an allegation by a citizen that the prosecutor had received a bribe.

As part of the lawsuit filed at Manabí's First Penal Guarantees Court, Bravo has requested US$1.5 million in damages and a prison sentence for journalists Paúl Bernal and Freddy Solórzano, Ediasa director Pedro Zambrano, deputy director Childerico Cevallos, and the company's attorney, Édison Cevallos.

On 9 November 2010, "El Diario", "La Marea" and Manavisión reported on an allegation by citizen Amarilis Zambrano, who claimed that Bravo had received a US$7,000 bribe in exchange for issuing a ruling against her son, who has been accused of murder.

Bravo told Fundamedios that the newspapers damaged her image by publishing a sensationalist piece about her "without investigating it". She clarified that the murder case in question had not been settled by her, as she had been transferred to a different city in Manabí province."I just issued the ruling, but a colleague settled the case," she said.

According to the prosecutor, her honor "built up through much work, was damaged by a groundless accusation". She added that she would direct the money received in damages to social assistance facilities in the province.

Pedro Zambrano, Ediasa's director, pointed out that Prosecutor Bravo's suit has no legal grounds because the company complied with all the relevant media guidelines by including the prosecutor's version of events in the article. He asserted that the company's attorneys were preparing their defence and would respond to all charges.

"I don't know why we are being sued. Everything is taped and the accusation presented by Mrs Amarilis Zambrano is signed. I think the treatment of the media is degenerating," he argued.

According to a piece published by "El Diario", Edison Cevallos, Ediasa's attorney, provided the Prosecutor's Office with audio and video recordings and the written accusation against Prosecutor Bravo presented by Amarilis Zambrano. Cevallos added that it is "unusual for journalists to face a lawsuit, when the media outlet has provided evidence that confirms that facts or an opinion were expressed by a third party."

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