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Minister plans to appeal judge's ruling in favour of newspaper

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 18 July 2011, Douglas Quintero, an Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Contencioso Electoral, TCE) judge, ruled that the daily "Hoy" did not commit an electoral infraction by publishing a campaign for World Press Freedom Day in the days prior to a 7 May public consultation and referendum. However, Pablo Alberto Baca, the lawyer for the plaintiff, Policy Coordinating Minister Doris Soliz, said he will appeal the decision in order to guarantee that the media comply with the law.

During the trial hearing, in which only the ruling was read, Judge Quintero said there was no evidence that "Hoy" had intended to influence the electoral process. He only reprimanded the newspaper, asking it to abstain in the future from publishing content touching on electoral issues in order to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

The minister's lawyer, however, asserted that although the judge did not fine the paper, he did make note of a "moral judgement" against it. He said they will appeal the decision in order to ensure that the law is complied with.

On 6 May, Minister Soliz filed a lawsuit before the TCE against "Hoy" for an alleged "flagrant violation" of electoral restrictions and requested that the media outlet be fined US$100 thousand.

In May, "Hoy" and other Ecuadorian media outlets published artwork as part of the local version of a worldwide campaign designed by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), using images of famous historical figures to promote the values of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

In the case denounced by the minister, 'Hoy" published the images of three renowned Ecuadorian personalities with tape over their mouths next to the logo of the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors (AEDEP), with the captions: "What if their words had never been heard?" and "Silence kills democracy but a free press upholds it".

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