Juan Carlos Calderón

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Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, on a visit to Moscow in October 2013. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)

Seven months after Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa flirted with the idea of offering asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, intercepted communications and leaked emails are again making headlines in the Andean country. This time, the story is not about international surveillance but a window onto the latest front in the ever-escalating war between the president and his critics.

Like the death of a loved one.

That's how Juan Carlos Calderón, editor of the newsmagazine Vanguardia, described the June 28 closing of the newsweekly that for eight years published hard-hitting investigations about public officials and faced frequent government harassment. Yet the final days of Vanguardia were almost as controversial as its stories.

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(Reuters/Enrique Marcarian)

Critics say that Correa, seen here speaking during a campaign rally for the upcoming presidential election, has turned the Ecuadoran press into his whipping boy. (AFP/Rodrigo Buendia)

One result of President Rafael Correa's high-profile campaign to demonize the country's private media can be seen on the desk of José Velásquez, news manager at Teleamazonas, a private Quito television station often critical of the government. Among the documents piled high on his desk are lawsuits, which used to be a rare thing. Encouraged by Correa, who has personally sued newspapers and journalists, Velásquez says, the subjects of Teleamazonas news reports are now filing between two and five lawsuits per month against the station.

Ecuadoran journalists Christian Zurita (right) and Juan Carlos Calderón have been ordered to pay President Correa US$1 million each in damages for defamation. (AFP/Agencia Prensa Independiente)

New York, February 7, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the sentence handed to two Ecuadoran journalists yesterday after they were found guilty of defaming President Rafael Correa.

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