Press freedom in Ecuador will be subject of international scrutiny in the coming months to verify that it complies with accepted standards and that the controversial Communication Law of the era of Rafael Correa be amended to also protect the work of journalists.
The analysis would fall on two special rapporteurs of the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, David Kaye and Edison Lanza, respectively, who will be invited by the Government of Lenin Moreno to study the situation in the country.
This was announced by the national secretary of Communication, Andrés Michelena, to a delegation of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists CPJ that this week visited the country and met with more than 40 professionals to evaluate the development of journalistic work after the change of government. The delegation concluded after five days of meetings that although “the landscape for the media in Ecuador has changed” and “there is a change in the public effort”, President Moreno and his government have yet to dismantle the apparatus that allowed the former to apply to certain expensive fines, leading some of them close to the financial abyss.
“The repressive scheme remains intact and the real work is still to be done,” said the head of the delegation, Joel Simon, during a visit to the Efe Agency delegation in Quito. The head of the NGO based in New York, considered very positive “the change of discourse” that has occurred in the country since Moreno came to power in May 2017, but recalled that one of the laws of communication is still in force toughest ever approved in a democracy and that, as long as it exists, the work of journalists is threatened.
“In the time of Correa there was undoubtedly a threat to freedom of expression, which became a major concern at the international level,” said Simon. The popularly known as “LOC”, of 2013, also contemplates the criminal sanction by converting the administrative fine into a prelude to criminal actions, which in Simon’s opinion makes it “one of the most repressive.”
And although the Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of Media (Fundamedios) has not registered any case in which that has happened, the last report of Freedom House that covers until December 2016, still under the Correa Executive, places Ecuador as the third country with the least press freedom in the region only behind Cuba and Venezuela.
An independent, non-profit organization that defends press freedom throughout the world and is accredited to the UN, CPJ has made several visits to Ecuador in recent years. With the current one, he wanted to verify that a process is beginning to correct this situation and support the work of local unions that for months have been demanding the Ecuadorian Government to amend the situation and return to the margins accepted internationally.
“Let a mission come to verify the state of freedom of expression in Ecuador is a strong backing for local organizations, which often have limitations and act in environments of distrust,” he said in statements to Efe César Ricaurte, director of Fundamedios. The Ecuadorian activist recalls that his country “is emerging from a decade of an authoritarian government,” which “had as a political strategy to polarize and divide society.”
The CPJ delegation did not have the opportunity to meet with the Ecuadorian president, but his communication secretary told him that “the president’s directive to his officials is that we have a law reformed in a short period of time, possibly 6 months, and that it meets the international standards, “according to Ricaurte.
For CPJ and Fundamedios, the question of time is crucial, because while the LOC is still in force, journalists are literally exposed to criminal sanctions and economic demands, perhaps not from the Moreno government and the executing agency -the once dreaded SUPERCOM-, but Yes of any second-ranking official. “We have heard from journalists that there are publishers who do not want to publish investigations, and the existence of officials, mainly in regional areas, with (unfounded) demands on journalists,” confirmed John Otis, a CPJ consultant resident in Bogotá. (I)