New York, April 18, 2017–Ecuadoran journalist Fernando Villavicencio, director of the news website Focus Ecuador and a critic of outgoing President Rafael Correa, today filed a petition for political asylum in Lima, Peru. A statement from the regional press group Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) said the journalist, who fled to Lima after presidential elections on April 2, is not guaranteed a fair trial in Ecuador, where he faces charges of distributing allegedly confidential emails sent by public officials.
“The fact that a well-known journalist like Fernando Villavicencio has been forced to file for political asylum in Peru is a clear reflection of Ecuador’s systematic persecution of critics,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “We ask Peruvian authorities to grant the asylum request and we urge Ecuadoran authorities to drop all charges against Villavicencio immediately and allow him to return home without fear for his freedom to work as a journalist.”
The charges against Villavicencio relate to an October 2013 article he wrote with fellow journalist Belén Palma for Ecuadoran website Plan V that was critical of the government’s legal battle with U.S. company Chevron. Ramiro García, a lawyer for Villavicencio, told CPJ in November last year that the article was published in the public interest. Ecuador has one of the worst press freedom records in the region, with journalists subject to legal measures, defamation suits, and public insults from officials, according to CPJ research.