Ecuador Internacional

Two years on, Ecuador’s Communications Act still one of the region's worst

iFex - Inter American Press Association 18/06/2015

Just a few days before the second anniversary of the enactment of Ecuador's Organic Communication Law the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) called on the international community, especially the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, to be cognizant of "the flagrant abuse by the government of Rafael Correa of the public's right to be informed and against the right to work of independent journalists and privately-owned and news media in his country."

June 23 marks two years since enactment of the Communication Law, which the IAPA has described as "an instrument of inquisition that turned President Correa into the principal censor in the Americas." The organization has criticized this legislation since Correa proposed it four years ago, predicting that it would be used to silence his political opponents, the independent press, and members of the public in their use of social media and the Internet.

The IAPA has been insisting that this law is illegitimate, that it is applied in a discriminatory manner against independent media and journalists, through agencies answering to the Executive Branch, with the explicit aim of censuring the free flow of information and the different currents of public opinion. In cases of prior censorship during recent months, the IAPA has offered solidarity with several media and journalists that defied the government, by not accepting the punishments, based on their constitutional right to resist.

"We were not mistaken," said IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, "we knew that this law would make censorship official and that the public would be the big loser, through restrictions on their right to be duly informed."

Mohme, referring to the speech this week by the new OAS Secretary General, Uruguay’s Luis Amargo, during the opening of the organization’s 45th General Assembly in Washington, DC, called for a "positive agenda", and stated that "there is nothing more positive than that this body begin to demand of the governments that they comply with the Inter-American Democratic Charter."

Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, said that in this new phase of the OAS, in which it is hoped that it will be more effective, "there should be a greater commitment to the understanding that without freedom of the press and of expression there cannot be true democracy, as the Charter states."

The IAPA pointed out that statistics of sanctions so far clearly show how the Communication Law is being applied in a discriminatory manner and as a shield for officials, many of whom use it as a means of reprisal against those who criticize their work. Of the 270 cases between 2013 and February this year, 231 were against privately-owned media, and 142 of them based on formal complaints filed by authorities and officials.

As a result of these cases and other actions of governmental pressure, a magazine - Vanguardia - three newspapers - Hoy, La Hora de Manabí and Diario Meridiano - and dozens of radio stations were shut down during this period.

The IAPA has also criticized this law for the lack of independence of the bodies responsible for enforcing it - the Superintendency of Information and Communication (Supercom), and the Communication Council (Cordicom), which are subject to the directives imposed by President Correa. Among the punishments imposed are the publication of obligatory rectifications, public apologies by the media's editor, and fines which are increased in case of "recurrence".

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