A street scene in Quito, Ecuador as pictured on April 10, 2021. South of Quito, in Ventanas, journalist Virginia Suárez was threatened in relation to her reporting. (Reuters/Santiago Arcos)

Ecuadorian journalist Virginia Suárez receives death threats

Bogotá, September 2, 2021 – Ecuadorian authorities must investigate death threats made against journalist Virginia Suárez and hold the perpetrators to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Suárez, who covers politics in the central town of Ventanas for her twice-weekly live news program called “Tus noches con Virginia” (Your nights with Virginia) on the Facebook-based news outlet Digital Vir’s, told CPJ via messaging app that she received a threatening message on August 24 on the outlet’s Facebook page as she was reporting from a local cemetery.

She said she was interviewing residents about their complaints about an effort by town officials to expropriate land to expand the cemetery when a commenter wrote, “You probably want to be found in the cemetery as well, with your mouth open and full of flies.”

She told CPJ that her colleagues at Digital Vir’s saw the message and told her about it after the commentator quickly deleted it.

After doing follow-up interviews at the cemetery on August 27, Suárez told CPJ that she returned to her parked car and found a note on the window saying: “If you keep publishing your complaints you will end up in the cemetery face up and covered in ants.” Suarez threw the note away after receiving it. CPJ was not able to independently verify either threat.

Suárez also described the threats in an interview with Fundamedios, an Ecuadorian press freedom organization.

“Journalists must be able to report on sensitive issues without fear for their safety,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Ecuadorian authorities must investigate who is behind the threats made to journalist Virginia Suárez and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”

Suárez told CPJ she has never before faced death threats for her reporting. “I got scared,” she said.

Suárez said she filed a complaint, which CPJ reviewed, about the death threats to the regional branch of the attorney general’s office in Ventanas. CPJ left a voice message seeking comment from that office but there was no response.