December 17, 2018

Press Freedom

Ecuador

OPC Condemns Crackdown on Media in Ecuador

H.E. Rafael Correa
Constitutional President
Palacio de Carondelet
Quito
Republic of Ecuador
Fax: (011.593.2) 58.07.35

Mr. President:

We, of the Freedom of the Press Committee of the Overseas Press Club of America, write to you with dismay at the way the media have been downgraded and restrained in your country.  It has become all too clear that your government has deliberately made unconstitutional attacks on the inherent principles of freedom to write and speak truth to your citizens.  Our disillusion, and undoubtedly that of your citizens, is that you have been twice elected president of Ecuador on the code words, “Citizens’ Revolution,” with the promises those words imply.  

Here are the reasons for our disappointment and disapproval:

    1. Article 9 of the referendum voted into existence last May orders the National Assembly to appoint a commission that reports directly to the president on ways and means to regulate the contents of radio, TV and the press.  This alone is a violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

     

    2. Since the police rebellion against your government in September, 2010, when your courage and dynamism in avoiding a coup was applauded by the world, you have restricted the media by allowing attacks on journalists, both personally and on their offices.  Since the aborted coup, there have been 149 documented attacks on press freedom, of which a vast majority, 100, have been attributed to government officals and 39 to the police.

    3. Since the referendum, El Diario, the daily newspaper, notes that at least 43 cases of violations of freedom of the press have been supported by both legislative and judicial rulings.

    4. Defamation laws have become a simple way to silence critics, as the fines are steep and a jail sentence of at least 3 years is possible.  Such a case received critical world-wide attention when Emilio Palaccio, a journalist, and 3 excutives were accused of belittling your excellency in a public debate. The four men were fined $40 million, and Mr. Palaccio  elected to flee the country to escape his 3-year prison sentence.  The story was picked up in Miami, as you know, and you personally were widely criticized.  Mr. President, your good name was not defamed.  Through your own actions, it became subject to debate.

    5. You have co-opted the tradition of CADENAS, previously only used when the president takes over all airways in Ecuador to give the nation emergency news, and used it for personal speeches and confrontation, forcing all other news and programs off the air.

    6. Your personal criticism of journalists is not worthy of your office.  In a BBC Broadcast, you referred to the press in general as ‘liars, ignorant, dishonest.”  Specifically, the case of Jeanette Hinostroza of TV Teleamazonas highlights this point.  After she did a story on a woman who was wrongly arrested and tried because you felt she had made an insulting gesture, you demanded ten minutes of air time on her program to have an official make a harsh rebuttal, questioning her ethics.  Later that week, on your Sunday broadcast, you disparaged Hinostroza’s intellect, calling her ‘that red head,’ and said she should be ignored.  Such insults are unworthy of a man in your position.

Where, then, Sir, is the moral justice you have twice campaigned on?  Where is the well-documented idealism you appeared to exhibit in the early years of your first term as president?  “I will never defraud the Ecuadoran people,” you said in an interview. 

The Overseas Press Club of America has been guarding and championing freedom of the press for our colleagues world-wide for 66 years.  For the benefit of your citizens and the world’s opinion of Ecuador, we ask you to give back to the “Citizens’ Revolution” what you have deliberately taken away. 

We hope for the courtesy of a reply.

Respectfully yours,

Jacqueline Albert-Simon
Larry Martz
Freedom of the Press Committee

cc:

Sr. Efria Baus
Charge d’Affaires
Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador
2535 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC  20009
Fax: (202) 667.3482

Ambassador María Fernanda Espinosa
Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Ecuador to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 935.1835

Mr. Timothy Zuiga-Brown
Charge d’Affaires
Embajada de los Estados Unidos
Av. Avigiras E12-170 y Av. Aloy Alfaro
Quito
Ecuador

H.E. Jorge Glass
Ministro de Telecomunicaciones e Información
Palacio de Carondelet
Quito
Republic of Ecuador

H.E. Raúl Vallejo Corral
Ministro de Educación
Palacio de Carondelet
Quito
Republic of Ecuador

Sr. Arturo Aguirre
Teleamazonas
afera@hotmail.com

Sr. Jaime Mantilla A.
Director
Hoy
jaime@hoy.com.ec

El Universo
politica@eluniverso.com