New York, September 20, 2012--Ecuadoran authorities must immediately investigate threats against Janet Hinostroza, a journalist with the private network Teleamazonas, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The threats have forced Hinostroza to take a temporary leave of absence.
Hinostroza received a phone call last week from an unidentified person who threatened her safety, the journalist said on her show, "La Mañana 24 horas," on Wednesday, according to news reports. She said the threats had prompted her to cancel the last segment of a three-part investigation, news reports said.
In the first two segments aired last week, Hinostroza reported on a scandal involving a US$800,000 loan made by Cofiec, a state-owned bank, to Gastón Duzac, an Argentine businessman, that Duzac had failed to pay back, news reports said. Hinostroza alleged on her show that Duzac had connections with Pedro Delgado, president of the board of directors of Ecuador's central bank and a cousin of President Rafael Correa.
On his weekly television show, Correa acknowledged "irregularities" in the way the loan was approved, but denied any impropriety on the part of Delgado, according to news reports. Hinostroza has defended her reporting on the Duzac case. News accounts have reported that Duzac has left Ecuador and has not made a statement about the case.
Hinostroza said she chose not to appear on the show on Friday "because I don't know what kind of people we are dealing with," she said on "La Mañana 24 horas" on Wednesday. She also declined the government's offer of protection, saying, "Is it fair that a journalist has to be surrounded by bodyguards to do her honest, professional, responsible work? When did that happen? I don't accept it," she said.
"It is deplorable that Janet Hinostroza has been forced to temporarily halt her work as a journalist because of threats made against her," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "Authorities must fully investigate this threat and ensure that Hinostroza can resume her important coverage of government affairs without having to fear for her safety."
Hinostroza and Teleamazonas, which is known for its criticism of the president's policies, have clashed with the administration before. After Hinostroza reported in April 2011 that a woman had been charged with disrespecting the president, the government ordered Teleamazonas to pre-empt 10 minutes of her program with a rebuttal from a government spokesman who called her ethics into question, according to news reports. During an address on state radio that week, Correa mocked Hinostroza's intellect and said she should be ignored.
Teleamazonas is a favorite target of the administration. In 2009, the network was ordered off the air for three days after it covered the effects of natural gas exploration on the local fishing industry, according to news reports.
Pedro Delgado has also taken on the critical press before. In December, the director of the Quito-based daily Hoy was convicted on criminal libel for articles in the paper that alleged Delgado wielded behind-the-scenes influence in the government.
A 2011 CPJ special report found that Rafael Correa's administration has led Ecuador into a new era of widespread repression by pre-empting private news broadcasts, enacting restrictive legal measures, smearing critics, and filing debilitating defamation lawsuits.
- For more analysis and data on Ecuador, see CPJ's Ecuador page here.