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Magazine correspondent threatened after writing about press freedom in Ecuador

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 16 August 2012 - On 16 August 2012, journalist Orlando Gómez, editor of the newspaper La Hora and correspondent for the Colombian magazine Semana, was attacked and threatened with death by unidentified persons after the magazine's recent publications about freedom of expression and the asylum offered to the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange.

Gómez told FUNDAMEDIOS that the physical attack took place around 10:00 a.m. when he left the newspaper's offices on his way to a meeting. "I was driving down Av. La Prensa and saw in my rear-view mirror that a motorcycle with two men on it was behind me. Curiously, a grey car with a revolving light on top was next to it but I paid little attention because I thought it would be an official car. However, as I got to the intersection of Av. La Prensa and Vaca de Castro, I noticed that the same motorcycle was following me on my passenger side. While we were waiting for the traffic lights to change, a man got off the motorcycle and asked me: 'Mr. Gómez?' I thought it was somebody I knew, so I did not move the car, but when I looked closely I realized I did not know him. At that moment the man put his hand into his jacket and took out a thick stick with which he hit the side of the car, breaking the right side mirror and denting the back of the vehicle".

As well as this incident, at around 4:00 a.m. La Hora's doorman got in touch with the journalist to tell him he had received several phone calls, allegedly from México, asking when Gómez would be arriving at the paper because they needed information about the Assange case. Around 6:00 a.m. Gómez received a threatening call at home in which he was told "Take care you son of a b... and stop making the country look bad".

Gómez stated he does not know who could be behind the threats and aggressions but commented they could be related to his last publications, such as one about Ecuador and challenges for the press, in which he makes reference to the limitations to press freedom that exist in Ecuador.

This article was questioned by Andes, the government's news agency, on 14 August, in a piece that referred to the Colombian press repeating the rhetoric of the Ecuadorian opposition; it says that the magazine Semana "joins the tentacles of the media's power and publishes an article based on the declarations of two defenders of the bourgeois press: César Ricaurte (founder of Fundamedios) and Carlos Lauria (CPJ)".

The journalist also said that over the 15 years he has been living in Ecuador, eight as a correspondent for the Colombian magazine, he has never had a similar problem. He also announced he will file a formal complaint with the Prosecutor's Office.

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