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Court rules Ecuadorian paper must apologise to government

A 12 November 2012 ruling in an Ecuadorian court will force the newspaper La Hora to print an apology both to the government and the public for allegedly printing an article that contained inexact information, report IFEX members Fundamedios, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the International Press Institute (IPI).

The decision ruled that the paper had infringed on the government's constitutional right to protection from “the dissemination of inexact or unproven information”, according to IPI, for the paper's 10 October report on President Rafael Correa's administration spending “over US $71 million on official advertising since January”.

According to local group Fundamedios, on 8 November a civil court judge in Pichincha had received a complaint presented by sub-secretary of the Public Administration, Óscar Pico Solórzano, on behalf of the Executive. The complaint was in response to the paper's refusal to correct information it had published and received from a Quito-based NGO called Corporación Participación Ciudadana. The same judge had earlier ruled that the newspaper was not to report on this trial while it was still in court, reported IAPA.

In their release, IPI said that their organisation “strongly condemns the court's ruling in this case, which appears to be an attempt to punish La Hora for publishing information—which was already publicly available and documented—that could cast the government in an unfavorable light.” They also said that the judge's ruling forcing the paper to print a correction and apology on the front page of the paper “severely interferes with the newspaper's editorial independence”.

As Fundamedios explains, this case is serious not only because La Hora was targeted for publishing information already available to the public, but also because the judge's ruling relies on constitutional human rights protections intended only for individuals and groups, yet he applied them to the state.

"If judicial independence in Ecuador was tainted after the ruling against the newspaper El Universo”', it has now lost all vestiges of impartiality and has become the executive arm of President Correa, used to silence independent voices and criticism," said Claudio Paolillo, President of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information of the IAPA.

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