Miami, January 24, 2020 — Ecuadorean authorities should restore radio station Pichincha Universal’s broadcast license and should not penalize news outlets for their political coverage, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, ARCOTEL, the country’s broadcast regulator, issued a decision revoking the license of Pichincha Universal, a local government-run radio station, after the outlet allegedly aired content that constituted incitement, according to the station’s general manager Washington Yépez, who spoke with CPJ via phone.
Yépez denied having broadcast any illegal content, and told CPJ that the outlet is known for broadcasting information “that is not aligned with [President] Lenín Moreno’s regime.” He told CPJ that the station remains on the air and is appealing the decision.
“Ordering a radio station off the air, regardless of its editorial line, goes against the significant steps taken by the Moreno administration to restore press freedom in Ecuador,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Ecuadorean authorities should reinstate Pichincha Universal’s license, and ensure that licensing decisions are not made on a political basis.”
Pichincha Universal is run by the government of the Pichincha region, according to its website. That region is administered by Patricia Pabón, a member of the Revolución Ciudadana movement led by former President Rafael Correa, which opposes Moreno, according to the prefecture’s website.
In its decision, ARCOTEL cited an October 3, 2019, Pichincha Universal broadcast that allegedly included “phrases that incite the paralysis of public services” and said the station participated “as an inciter to the paralysis action,” according to excerpts from the decision posted on Twitter by local press freedom group Fundamedios.
The broadcast cited in the decision was covering protests that took place throughout Ecuador from October 3 to 13 against planned reductions in fuel subsidies, according to news reports.
On October 8, the National Police and the Prosecutor’s Office raided the offices of Pichincha Universal and alleged that the station had been “inciting discord against citizens,” as CPJ documented at the time.
CPJ emailed ARCOTEL for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.