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Ecuadorian journalists harassed in court and on the street

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - On 24 September 2012, Radio Democracia journalist Gonzalo Rosero said on air on his program that he is being harassed.

"I want to let the public know that for some time now, this journalist has been persecuted, followed and during the last week it has been intolerable. I want to leave this complaint as a testimony. We are not losing courage but we do not know, as Teleamazonas colleague Janet Hinostroza has said, we do not know where it is coming from, this undesirable company, this persistent monitoring", he said on air as he was interviewing opposition assembly member Paco Moncayo on his program.

Rosero stated that "this weekend they even followed me to a place that is very hard to get to". He defended his work at the same time pointing out that "this journalist, wherever you place him, has had a consistent struggle. I have not gone to extremes, neither to the right nor to the left".

Finally Rosero requested "please, stop bothering me, persecuting me, something serious may happen at any moment and then you will shrug it off". . ."there is a dangerous person who has been given no personal motive, but they are where they are thanks to this radio station and now see how they pay us back".

Álvaro Rosero, the journalist's son, confirmed to Fundamedios that his father has been the victim of this kind of persecution for some months and that the most serious incident happened over the weekend when he was followed by a car with no number plates that stopped next to Rosero to make threatening gestures. He also commented that over the last few weeks it has become common for his father to be followed by people in unidentified cars.

In a separate case, on 20 August 2012, the Associate Judges Chamber of the Provincial Court of Justice of Loja sentenced journalist Freddy Aponte to five years in prison after ratifying a first instance conviction, issued on 9 August 2011, after having found him guilty of bankruptcy fraud in a process initiated by the former mayor of Loja, Bolívar Castillo. The journalist failed to pay damages of US$54,633 dollars from a previous trial for moral damage, also initiated by Castillo.

The sentence was made public a month later than it should have been, according to the time period established by law. The decision said "The Chamber is fully convinced that the accused had the necessary funds to settle the amount to be paid in damages as ordered in the convicting sentence".

Adolfo Moreno, the journalist's attorney, questioned the ratification of the sentence because, he said "they are infringing due process because the crime of bankruptcy fraud cannot be persecuted if, previously, civil justice has not declared the journalist insolvent". "Without this prior judgment, the criminal case should not have proceeded".

With this sentence now in writing, Aponte can appeal to the National Court of Justice, the last instance to which he can take his case.

On 27 July 2011, the Second Tribunal of Criminal Guarantees of Loja declared the journalist guilty of bankruptcy fraud. He was sentenced to five years in prison on 9 August. This is the third criminal trial initiated by the former mayor against the journalist, who has already served time in prison after being sentenced - in September 2008 - to six months, for slander against Castillo.

The first case originated in June 2007 when Castillo accused Aponte of calling him a "thief" in his opinion program Primer Plano, broadcast by radio station Luz y Vida of Loja. The journalist denied the accusation and, moreover, recordings of the alleged slander were never presented. Aponte has questioned the tribunals' rulings since the beginning of the processes against him, claiming family connections between his accuser and the judges who oversaw his cases, which may have had an influence on their sentences.

Aponte is currently waiting for a date to be set for the hearing in which the appeal for a review of facts will be resolved in the National Court of Justice.

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