El Pais Ousts Editor Who Published Documents on Spanish Graft

El Pais, Spain’s leading daily newspaper, ousted editor Javier Moreno who last year published documents purporting to show details of a secret slush fund for senior officials of the governing People’s Party.

The newsroom was informed of the decision at a meeting with Juan Luis Cebrian, chairman of El Pais’s owner Promotora de Informaciones SA, according to a statement on El Pais’s web site late yesterday. The statement didn’t provide an explanation for the change and a spokesman for Prisa declined to comment. Moreno’s assistant referred questions to the spokesman.

Moreno is the second senior journalist in Spain to lose his job this year after El Mundo fired editor Pedro J. Ramirez last month. The two editors last year vied to lead coverage of PP corruption allegations. El Mundo’s owner RCS Mediagroup said Ramirez’s ouster was part of a plan to boost sales, while the editor said he’d been targeted by the government.

El Pais has seen sales decline while its parent company, known as Prisa, restructured about 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) of debt. The newspaper fired about a third of its staff last year in a bid to reduce its costs.

“It has been a privilege to edit El Pais for eight years,” Moreno said in a Twitter post yesterday.

In January last year, El Pais published extracts from handwritten ledgers by former PP treasurer Luis Barcenas, which it said showed payments to party officials including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, general secretary of the party, and the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo Rato. Rajoy has denied that he received illegal payments.

Cospedal and other party officials began the process of suing El Pais over the reports before withdrawing their suit. Cospedal also said the party would commission an independent audit of its finances to address the concerns. That report was never produced because the party couldn’t find anyone prepared to do it, a party spokesman said.

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