Attacks on the Press
The press freedom climate continued its sharp decline under President Rafael Correa. Courts upheld defamation convictions against executives of the daily El Universo and authors of the book Big Brother in connection with their critical coverage of the Correa administration. The president, who initiated the complaints, later pardoned the journalists, but the rulings cast a chill on in-depth reporting. Correa granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a move that underlined his antipathy toward the United States and sought to counter his image as an opponent of free expression. U.N. member states made 24 recommendations on freedom of expression at the country’s Universal Periodic Review. The Ecuadoran government rejected three of the recommendations, including one that urged the repeal of laws that criminalize speech. The president also began a sustained attack on the Organization of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression, a move that threatened to gut a vital defender of the regional press. An anti-press attitude was prevalent among all branches of Ecuadoran government. Legislators debated a bill that would allow a media regulatory body to impose arbitrary sanctions on the press and limit free speech. The telecommunications office closed at least 11 broadcasters, more than half of which were critical of the government. And a photographer was killed in direct retaliation for his reporting, the first confirmed journalist murder in Ecuador since 2005.