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Nations urge Ecuador to guarantee freedom of expression

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Foreign Affairs
Minister Ricardo Patiño said 'ignorance' was behind
international criticism of press freedom conditions in Ecuador. (AP/Dolores Ochoa)

Stressing concerns of human rights groups about the deterioration of press conditions under the administration of President Rafael Correa, 17 members of the United Nations submitted recommendations to Ecuador on freedom of expression issues before the U.N. Human Rights Council this week. While Ecuador tried to pass off the criticism as resulting from ignorance, the states' observations made clear that the international community is fully aware of Correa's repressive tactics against the local media.

Using a mechanism known as the Universal Periodic Review, established by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2006, U.N. member states assess the degree to which countries are fulfilling their international human rights obligations. Under this procedure, states have the right to raise questions and make recommendations to the government of the country under review; each state is reviewed every four years. The process provides the opportunity to redress human rights violations, and requires governments to publicly state which recommendations they will implement. Non-governmental organizations can submit their own reports and recommendations, which are compiled by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and can be utilized by member states.

Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, the United States, Slovakia, Latvia, Luxemburg, Norway, France, India, Sweden, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom all introduced recommendations Monday before the Council, most of them related to Ecuadoran legislation that criminalizes speech.

Most of the recommendations, 12 out of 17, came from European states. Belgium was the first one to speak out: "We have reports on freedom of expression abuses, the improper use of criminal law, persecution of journalists..., we expect the compliance with international law on freedom of expression and that the visit of the rapporteur on freedom of expression will be accepted." Correa likely paid close attention; he studied economics in Belgium, and his wife is a Belgian native.

The U.S. and Europe expressed concern about the use of criminal defamation laws against government critics; Switzerland said the Ecuadoran press is working in a climate of censorship; and Sweden expressed alarm over the conviction of three executives and the former opinion editor of the leading national daily El Universo.

The Ecuadoran delegation to Geneva was made up of more than 100 officials, including Vice-President Lenin Moreno Garcés and Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patiño. The latter said "ignorance" was the reason behind international criticism. "Those who travel to Ecuador will realize how freedom of expression is respected and promoted," Patiño said, according to press reports.

Ecuador has until September to identify which recommendations the government will accept or reject -- the Human Rights Council will officially adopt an "outcome statement" at that time. But Ecuadoran officials said they anticipate responding as soon as Friday.

CPJ research shows that Correa's administration has led Ecuador into an era of widespread repression by systematically filing defamation lawsuits and smearing critics.

CPJ, together with PEN International and Fundamedios, an Ecuadoran press freedom organization, submitted a report for consideration before the U.N. Human Rights Council. Among our joint recommendations, we called on Ecuadoran authorities to stop the use of outdated criminal defamation laws to silence critical journalists, editors, and media executives; repeal criminal defamation laws or enact superseding defamation laws that meet international standards of freedom of expression; and halt the use of retaliatory civil defamation lawsuits that silence critical journalists and have a chilling effect on expression by demanding disproportionate damages.

Last week, together with CPJ Senior Adviser Jean-Paul Marthoz, Fundamedios Executive Director César Ricaurte, and the group's project director, Mauricio Alarcón, I traveled to Geneva, the headquarters of the U.N. Human Rights Council, to meet with diplomats prior to Ecuador's review. We also stopped in Brussels to visit European deputies and members of the EU Commission responsible for relations with Andean countries. During these meetings, we expressed our concern about the grave damage done to free expression in Ecuador by the government's pattern of subjecting critical journalists to long and debilitating legal reprisals.

Latin American diplomats in Geneva are fully aware of the situation, yet no countries from the region except Costa Rica presented observations before the Council. While disappointing, the decision by Latin America to keep silent about the official repression against the Ecuadoran press came as no surprise. As CPJ's executive director noted in his introductory essay to CPJ's Attacks on the Press in 2010, the Organization of American States, "which has been paralyzed by ideological battles in Latin America, rarely speaks out on press freedom violations."

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Comments

Regardless of whether this blog is sponsored by actual journalists, media conglomerates, newspaper owners or political players, it would be more credible if the article was factual. For example, name journalists in Ecuador that are or have been imprisoned, and how many media outlets have been closed for political reasons during the current government. Also, try to investigate how many families own the majority of the media groups in Ecuador, or the political influence and privileges that they formerly enjoyed. And finally, most real journalists would arrive to the conclusion that only the progressive Latin American governments are being targeted in this "freedom of expression" fallacy. Wouldn't you agree that this is all an ideological battle of the conservative elites? Their struggle to maintain their political power in Latin America?

Jean-Paul Borja May 25, 2012 2:19:59 PM ET

Gary Christensen TV 10 News & Human Rights Costa Rica
Oscar Arias, Laura Chinchilla , E.E.U.U., PLN crush media "freedom of expression"

May 2, "Speaking Out on World Press Freedom Day":
US - UN - Costa Rican Disinformation, Lies and Totalitarian Propaganda.

ex-Presidente Monge de Costa Rica:

"del régimen de los hermanos Arias y del diario La Nación – Rodolfo Jimenez Borbón, Yanancy Noguera (y sus oligarquías - la República, el Financiero, la Extra, al Día, CRHoy, Interpol, la Prensa Libre, la Teja, Freedom House, Groupo Sama, el Pregon, Monumental, OAS – Edgar Uglate, Danilo González, Tico Times, El Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión (IPLEX) – Eduardo Ulibarri , CEJIL – Viviana Krsticevic, Gisela De León, Alejandra Nuño , Colegio de Periodistas de Costa Rica, UN - Andrew Radolf, Irina Bokova, Frank La Rue, Jacques Sagot, U.S. State Department/ Embassy –Costa Rica - Ann Andrews, the C.I.A., Canal 4, 6, 7, 11, 42.... radio..) produce una involución democrática por medio de un aparato de propaganda totalitario y un descomunal aparato de poder que atropella la Constitución, el Estado de Derecho y convierte en engranajes de ese aparato la Asamblea Legislativa, la Sala IV, el Tribunal de Elecciones, el Banco Central, etc., etc., etc."

ex presidente Luis Alberto Monge:

"esa institucionalidad democrática (de Oscar Arias, Rodrigo Arias, Laura Chinchilla, la Nación, U.S. State Department/ Embassy –Costa Rica, C.I.A. la UN y las oligarquías) ha sido resquebrajada, perturbada, atropellada por las constantes violaciones a la Constitución Política, y por la concentración de poder, que nunca se haba dado en nuestra historia, del poder político, del poder económico y el poder mediático en manos de un solo individuo (Oscar Arias con Rodrigo Arias, la Embajada de Estados Unidos, C.I.A., Luis Paulino Mora, la UN, Laura Chinchilla, la Nación y los élites dominanates), que es un verdadero dictador en Costa Rica."

http://bit.ly/zCuV9G