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President pardons "El Universo" executives and writers; drops lawsuit against "El Gran Hermano" authors

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 27 February 2012, President Rafael Correa announced his “forgiveness of the accused” in the "El Universo" case and said that he will “concede the remission of the convictions that were deservedly received”, referring to the sentences issued against Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez, directors of the newspaper, and its former opinion editor, Emilio Palacio. He also said that he will withdraw the lawsuit for moral damages filed by him against journalists and authors of the book “El Gran Hermano”, Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita.

The president made these announcements during a solemn act that took place in the Salón Amarillo of the Government Palace, in the company of his ministers. The speech was broadcast by a national radio and TV "cadena" and was simultaneously translated to English and French. In the La Trinitaria neighbourhood of Guayaquil, giant TV screens were set up and government supporters were invited to listen to the presidential message. In his message, the president also announced that he will withdraw the lawsuit filed against the authors of the book “El Gran Hermano” because, he believes: “it is not worth wasting time on people who do not deserve even that”.

After granting the pardon but stating he will not forget, Rafael Correa stated that despite his decision, he had succeeded in the three objectives he wanted to achieve with the trial. First, to show that "El Universo" lied and did not correct its lie; second, “to make it evident that the responsible parties are not just spiteful people who have nothing more to lose (...), but also the directors of the media and the newspaper itself through which infamy is orchestrated”; and third, “to make the citizens of Ecuador and all of America overcome their fear of this press that acts in a corrupt and abusive way, so that with the law in their hands, they can defend their rights”.

The president also discredited the work of the Inter American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and the Special Rapporteurs Office for the Freedom of Expression, which he questioned for having its own budget, and that according to the Chief of State, “reflects the hegemony of the capital that is behind the negotiations of the media”.

Correa also emphasized that the trial “made evident the great biases of the IACHR, a commission that has the characteristics of an NGO rather than a legal institution, in which legitimacy is secondary. Thus they take on real or imaginary crusades”.

It is worth remembering that on 16 February 2012, the Criminal Division of the recently reformed National Court of Justice ratified, during a hearing for the review of facts, the conviction to three years in prison and the payment of US$40 million for offending the president against the directors and former editorialist of "El Universo". Meanwhile, on 7 February, journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita were sentenced in the first instance to pay US$2 million for the alleged spiritual damage they caused the chief of state. The two journalists, however, are still facing the lawsuit filed against them by Minister María de los Ángeles Duarte, who is demanding US$500 thousand dollars from each of them as compensation for the alleged moral damage caused to her by the publication of the same book.
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  • Fundamedios condemns million-dollar fines against journalists Calderón and Zurita

    "We alert the international community to this attempt to silence Ecuadorian journalists. This sentence is no more than a warning of what can happen to those who dare to investigate and denounce cases of corruption during the exercise of power," says Fundamedios.

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