Bogotá, February 12, 2020 -- Ecuadorian authorities should conduct a speedy and transparent investigation into the explosion of a device at the home of journalist Víctor Aguirre, and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
At about 4 a.m. February 8, an explosive device detonated in Aguirre’s home in the city of Naranjal, southern Ecuador, damaging a refrigerator and leaving a hole in the floor of his garage, but not harming him or his pregnant wife, who were both home at the time, Aguirre told CPJ in a phone interview. A gallon-sized container of gasoline connected to the device did not explode, Aguirre said.
Aguirre covers politics in Naranjal at VA Televisión, a Facebook-based broadcaster that he founded and manages, and which employs three other journalists, he said.
“Ecuadorian authorities should promptly investigate the detonation of an explosive device at Victor Aguirre’s home and hold those responsible to account,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Authorities must ensure that journalists can report safely and without fear that they will be attacked for their work.”
In October 2019, after he covered a confrontation between Naranjal Mayor Luigi Rivera and anti-government protesters, Aguirre was forced into a car with Rivera and his brother, he told CPJ.
“They threatened to do me bodily harm and destroy my car if I continued to publish these things,” he said.
María Fernanda Almeida, an analyst at the Quito-based free press organization Fundamedios, told CPJ by telephone that Rivera has frequently criticized press coverage of his administration.
On February 10, in a speech uploaded to his Facebook page, Rivera lashed out at VA Televisión by name, saying that broadcaster and other news outlets were “corrupt media that are trying to mislead the public” over their coverage of protests against a public housing project going up in what critics say is an environmentally sensitive area of Naranjal.
CPJ called Rivera on his cell phone for comment, but no one answered the calls.
In the wake of the explosion, Aguirre said he filed a formal complaint with police and requested police protection, but has so far received no response.
CPJ’s phone calls to the Naranjal police went unanswered.