Country needs free press for Moreno's fight against corruption
Quito, Ecuador, March 16, 2018 --The government of Ecuador pledged in a meeting Wednesday with the Committee to Protect Journalists to reform an oppressive communications law this year and to invite international experts to visit the country and analyze Ecuador's compliance with international legal standards.
Ecuadoran Secretary of Communication Andrés Michelena said President Lenín Moreno, who took office in May 2017, would send a letter in the coming weeks formally inviting special rapporteurs on freedom of expression of the United Nations David Kaye and of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Edison Lanza to visit.
Michelena acknowledged that the government of former President Rafael Correa had severely damaged press freedom in Ecuador, and that the 2013 Communications Law, commonly known as the 'ley mordaza' or gag law, had restricted the work of journalists. Moreno, who served as Correa's vice-president, made a dramatic shift, promising to uphold press freedom and engage in dialogue with the media.
"For 10 years, Ecuador was one of the most repressive countries in Latin America for the press," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "We are pleased to see a clear shift in public discourse under President Moreno, but the hard work on legal reform lies ahead."
In meetings with the delegation, journalists described how the Communications Law became an instrument of repression. Under the law, newspapers faced enormous fines for failing to publish government responses to critical stories. Correa railed against the media and filed debilitating defamation lawsuits, including an $80 million suit against El Universo, one of the country's leading newspapers.
"President Correa sought to repress any reporting on the rampant corruption which characterized his administration," said Ricardo Uceda, director of the Peruvian press freedom organization Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) and a member of the CPJ delegation. "President Moreno has pledged to combat corruption and to succeed, he will need a free and vibrant media.
In the meeting with Michelena, CPJ called for the full repeal of the Communications Law, but said it would welcome any changes that would significantly improve the press freedom climate in Ecuador.
Moreno is also considering making a major speech on the importance of press freedom, potentially on May 3, to coincide with World Press Freedom Day, according to Michelena.
CPJ presented its findings at a press conference in Quito today. In addition to Simon and Uceda, the CPJ delegation comprised CPJ's Andes correspondent John Otis, Central and South America research associate Natalie Southwick, and Anya Schiffrin, director of the technology, media, and communications specialization at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Schiffrin is also an adviser to CPJ.
CPJ plans to publish a detailed report on its findings in the coming months.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
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