Bogotá, June 29, 2020 – Ecuadorian authorities should investigate threats made to journalist Luis Eduardo Vivanco and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On June 24, Vivanco, founder of the satirical news website La Posta, was walking his dog in Quito, the capital, when an unidentified man began screaming at him from a nearby car, he told CPJ via messaging app. The man then left the car and said, “Vivanco, you son of a bitch, I’m going to kill you.”
The journalist recorded the encounter on his phone; he said the man left the scene after seeing that Vivanco was filming him.
The following day, Vivanco received a WhatsApp message from an account he did not recognize, which he posted to Twitter, saying that a person identified as “Bearded Gil” was going to “kill you or shut your horn.”
“Threatening journalists is unacceptable. Ecuadorian authorities must investigate who is behind the threats made to journalist Luis Eduardo Vivanco, and ensure that such actions are not tolerated,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “In a democracy like Ecuador, it is essential that the government creates an environment where journalists feel safe to do their work.”
In the WhatsApp message, the sender included a screenshot of a comment Vivanco made on Twitter lamenting conditions in Quito under Mayor Jorge Yunda. Vivanco said that he believes La Posta’s reporting and commentary about Yunda and his associates may have provoked the threats.
“Without a doubt it is an effort to intimidate me and other journalists,” Vivanco told CPJ.
Vivanco said Quito police interviewed him about the threats and that the attorney general’s office is investigating.
Alex Baquero, a spokesperson for Yunda, told CPJ in a phone interview that the mayor had asked the attorney general’s office to investigate the threats. On Twitter, Yunda condemned the threats and said that he would “always defend freedom of expression.”
CPJ emailed the Quito attorney general’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.
According to news reports, Yunda is under investigation for corruption and links to organized crime, and Quito’s city council voted in favor of removing him from office on June 3. In a tweet, Yunda implied that the allegations against him were politically motivated.