Reuters/Henry Romero
Reuters/Henry Romero

The U-turn:

CPJ’s work in Ecuador

Over the last 10 years, CPJ has viewed the situation in Ecuador as a priority in Latin America and documented the deteriorating press freedom environment under former President Rafael Correa through special reports, articles, and reporting trips to the country. In a 2011 report, “Confrontation, Repression in Correa’s Ecuador,” CPJ analyzed how Correa led Ecuador into a new era of widespread repression by pre-empting private news broadcasts, enacting restrictive legal measures, smearing critics, and filing debilitating defamation lawsuits.

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Since then, CPJ has reported on ongoing threats and personal attacks against Teleamazonas journalist and 2013 International Press Freedom Award winner Janet Hinostroza, and the legal saga of investigative reporter Fernando Villavicencio, who was forced to flee the country multiple times while facing charges of criminal defamation and distributing allegedly confidential emails sent by public officials.

For nearly a decade, CPJ’s Ecuador updates have documented a campaign of intimidation against the media and a parade of excessive lawsuits against reporters Juan Carlos Calderón, Christian Zurita, and Martín Pallares, as well as major newspapers and television channels.

In a series of articles in 2014, CPJ’s Andes Correspondent John Otis examined the Supercom’s battle against El Universo editorial cartoonist Xavier Bonilla after he published a cartoon skewering the government’s investigation of Villavicencio.

A local newspaper reports on CPJ’s meeting with El Universo during a trip to Ecuador in March 2018. (CPJ/Natalie Southwick)
A local newspaper reports on CPJ’s meeting with El Universo during a trip to Ecuador in March 2018. (CPJ/Natalie Southwick)

A 2016 special report on criminal defamation laws in South America outlined the continued application of these laws in Ecuador and highlighted notable cases, including Correa’s $40 million lawsuit against El Universo in 2011.

In March 2018, almost a year into President Lenín Moreno’s term, a CPJ delegation traveled to Guayaquil and Quito to assess the changing press freedom environment and advocate for vital reforms.

The delegation, hosted by Ecuadoran press freedom organization Fundamedios, consisted of Otis; Executive Director Joel Simon; South and Central Americas Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick; CPJ Americas advisory board member and head of Peruvian press freedom organization IPYS Ricardo Uceda; and CPJ adviser and Columbia University professor Anya Schiffrin. The participants met with journalists, media organizations, and government officials including the CORDICOM and Communications Secretary Andrés Michelena, and conducted preliminary research and interviews for this report.