Hemispheric press advocate concerned by Diario Extra case

The allegation by executives at El Dairio Extra that the Poder Judicial wiretapped telephones of reporters is garnering international attention. Now the Inter-American Press Association has expressed its concern that the judiciary is attempting to intimidate news sources.

Monday a number of Diario Extra representatives called a press conference to alert local newspapers and television stations of what they said was illegal intrusion. They claimed that the Judicial Investigating Organization had engaged in espionage by tracking reporters corporate and personal phones to discover the sources behind their news stories.

Consisting of more than 1,300 print organizations through the Western Hemisphere, the Miami-based Inter-American PressAssociation is a nonprofit that specializes in defending press freedoms in the Americas. Claudio Paolillo, who is chairman of the association’s Committee on the Freedom of Press and Information, said that “this is a flagrant violation of freedom of information.”

The wiretapping began 10 months ago after the newspaper investigated a series of kidnappings that involved police officers, the executives said. A 200-page report that was anonymously sent to Diario Extra details the order given to spy on the phone calls of reporters and police staff, according to the newspaper’s articles.

Authorities from the Poder Judicial, including president of the Corte Suprema de Justicia,  Zarella Villanueva, have denied any wrongdoing. Still, the newspaper’s lawyer said Monday that they plan to file a complaint with the Sala IV constitutional court.

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