Ascendant Holdings Sues Local Newspaper for Libel: Asking One Million Dollars in Damages
Chapter 2 in Transnational’s Slander Suit Against Community Newspaper INTAG
from Mary Ellen Fieweger, Editor, INTAG
Ascendant Exploration, the Canadian mining company eager to begin copper production in Intag, has just opened a new chapter in its libel suit against periódico INTAG, a local community newspaper. The suit, filed in September, was sent to a criminal court in Ibarra in December. The mining transnational claims that damages suffered at the hands of our community newspaper come to a cool million dollars, and the company is also asking that we pay legal fees and court costs. As those of you who have checked out Ascendant’s web site know, the company is very proud of its concern for the “human factor,” which no doubt explains why John Bolaños Moreano, the mining company’s representative, chose to begin criminal proceedings against the editor of INTAG two days before Christmas.
In his complaint, Mr. Bolaños argues that the company has taken this step because INTAG neglected to respond to its request for certified copies of the issue containing statements allegedly damaging to the company, and for information about the identify of the author of the article in question.
Said article appears on pages 1 and 2 of the July 2004 issue of INTAG. The title (English equivalent) is “County Authorities and Community Organizations Meet with the National Director of Mines”. The author is José Rivera, and his name appears right there, under the headline, on page 1. And it would appear that Ascendant already has at least one copy of the issue in question because they sent us Xerox copies of the article they find offensive.
We did not respond to the September 10, 2004 summons to appear in court simply because we never received the summons from the court in question. Instead, we found out that we are being sued because Ascendant sent us a copy of the complaint by mail.
But the major issue here is: What does Ascendant find offensive about the article cited? As far as we can tell, they are displeased that José reported what people at the meeting said. Among those whose statements are quoted and/or paraphrased, are the National Director of Mining, the lawyer for Cotacachi County, a parish authority, the mayor of Cotacachi, and a series of residents who provided statements on the company’s activities in their communities. José attributes all statements to their respective source.
It appears that Ascendant has little use for freedom of expression, a right guaranteed by the constitution and laws of virtually every country in the world, including Ecuador (and Canada).
So, friends of Intag, and of periódico INTAG, we are once again ask for your support. This can take many forms: send this press release to friends and friendly media, write an article for your local or university or organization newspaper/letter, magazine, etc., write a letter of protest to the miners or support to INTAG. Below are the addresses of Ascendant’s CEO Christopher Werner and its president Paul Grist. Whatever you do, please send us a little note and a copy of any documents you produce: intag2001(at)yahoo.com. For those of you who wrote back in October when this legal process began, mil gracias, and would you mind doing so again? Something like this will do:
“Just a little note to say that I wrote to you back in October about this. I can’t believe you’re pursuing what is clearly a harassment suit. Shame on you.” And send a copy of this to us as well.
And, if you’ve been following the Ascendant saga at this address or on the new English language online version of INTAG (www.intagnewspaper.org) you know that the mining company wants to raise money by going public, listing itself on the Toronto Stock Exchange. By sending a copy of your Ascendant letter to Francis Manns, the person in charge of Compliance and Disclosure for the Toronto Stock Exchange, you may raise a few eyebrows and also perhaps bring on some second thoughts about Ascendant’s ethics.
Finally, there will now be legal expenses (exactly what the company wants to force us to do: use time and energy and resources in this). All contributions, no matter how large or small, will be greatly appreciated. Please make checks out to Periódico INTAG and send them to: Periódico INTAG, Casilla 211, Otavalo-Imbabura, Ecuador. If you do send a check, please drop an email to let us know. You can also demonstrate your support by subscribing to our Spanish-language print edition (12 issues for $45.00).
Thank you all from the bottom of our collective heart. And we hope your new year is filled with peace and solidarity.
Mary Ellen Fieweger
Addresses for letters:
República del Salvador N34-183
Torre Azul, 3rd floor
Francis Manns, Ph.D.
Compliance and Disclosure
Toronto Stock Exchange