Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Ecuador
As of December 31, 1998

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With El Niño-induced flooding, plunging oil prices, a currency devaluation, riots, and a lively political campaign in which former Quito Mayor Jamil Mahuad defeated banana mogul Alvaro Noboa for the presidency, there has been no shortage of news. And for the most part, journalists say they were able to report it without hindrance.

The most serious incident occurred in February after the Quito daily Hoy published a story alleging that an advisor to interim President Fabián Alarcón had diverted aid donated to flood victims. Pedro Castro, a local politician in the port city of Guayaquil, led a rock-throwing mob in an attack on the newspaper's local bureau. Alarcón, who took over as president in February 1997 after Congress removed President Abdal´ Bucaram for "mental incompetence," was replaced by Mahuad in August.

After taking office, Mahuad immediately negotiated an end to Ecuador's long-standing border dispute with Peru. Journalists from Hoy, which supported the peace initiative, say they received a series of threatening phone calls and letters from readers angered by their coverage.

While defamation is a criminal offense in Ecuador punishable by up to three years in prison, no journalists were prosecuted during 1998. Efforts to reform the press law have been hampered by divisions within the press corps between those favoring mandatory licensing of journalists and those who oppose it.
Attacks on the Press in Ecuador in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
06/02/98 José Barrón Jara Velarde, El Sol Harassed
06/02/98 León Esteban Félix Lafaro, El Sol Harassed
02/06/98 José Solís, Hoy Attacked
02/06/98 Gustavo Cortés, Hoy Attacked

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