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Ecuador

Key Developments

» New communications law gives authorities power to censor, sanction press.

» Correa defeated in effort to weaken Inter-American human rights system.

Bolstered by a landslide re-election, President Rafael Correa continued his offensive against Ecuador's critical press. His victory allowed him a significant win: the approval of a communications law that establishes regulation of editorial content and gives authorities the power to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press, according to CPJ research. At least one investigative newsmagazine shut down after the passage of the law, though economic concerns were also at issue. But while the president battered the press at home, he ran up against challenges abroad. In a serious blow to Correa, the Organization of American States voted to discard proposals introduced by Ecuador that would seriously weaken the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights  and its special rapporteur for freedom of expression. Although none of these proposals passed, a last-minute change to the resolution meant the debate would be allowed to continue. Local press freedom organizations documented dozens of anti-press violations throughout the year, including attacks, threats, harassment, obstruction, and arbitrary lawsuits.



  • 2nd

    Consecutive year
  • 174

    Press freedom violations
  • 1

    Repressive media law
  • 15

    Anti-press articles in proposed law
 

Ecuador appeared for the second consecutive year on CPJ's Risk List, which identifies 10 places where press freedom declined significantly over the year.

Countries where press freedom suffered most in 2013:

risk



 

The press group Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study, known as Fundamedios, documented at least 174 press freedom violations against the Ecuadoran press in 2013. The violations included physical and verbal attacks, threats, harassment, arbitrary lawsuits and judicial decisions, coerced pre-emption, and obstruction.

Press freedom violations over time, according to Fundamedios:
 

The new communications law passed on June 14, 2013, is one of the most restrictive in the region, according to CPJ research. The legislation established a state entity to regulate media content and gave it the power to impose civil or criminal penalties for content it deemed inaccurate, unbalanced, or "media lynching."


A troubling press freedom climate under the law:

1

Magazine closed. The owner of the hard-hitting investigative newsmagazine Vanguardia shuttered the publication, blaming the law, though the magazine had economic problems as well.

3

Newspapers warned by Correa that they could face sanctions under the communications law for their coverage of a government lawsuit against Chevron.

4

Formal objections presented by three congressmen and one citizen who protested the nomination of Carlos Ochoa as superintendent of the new media regulatory body. The congressmen said Ochoa didn't meet the requirements for the position and was biased in favor of the government and against private media groups. Despite the fact that he was the only candidate to receive objections, Ochoa was confirmed for the position.
 

At least 15 articles in a proposed new penal code under debate in the National Assembly would threaten freedom of expression, according to the local press freedom group Fundamedios. The articles include a criminal defamation provision and overly broad language penalizing invasion of privacy and discriminatory speech.

CPJ research shows that the Ecuadoran press operates under immense pressure because of a variety of legislative and legal tactics wielded by the government.


Legal offensive against the press:

1

Criminal defamation conviction. Yaco Martínez, director of the daily La Nación in the northern province of Carchi, was sentenced on charges of criminally defaming a former governor. The case was later nullified due to procedural violations by the judge.

93 percent

Of coverage of the presidential elections in February by the country's top 10 newspapers involved short, descriptive articles with very little analysis or opinion, in a three-week period before elections, according to a survey by Fundamedios. Reforms to the electoral law passed in 2012 seriously restricted election coverage.



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