The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, considered it essential today in Ecuador to guarantee freedom of the press to uncover corruption, “perhaps the greatest global epidemic of our time.”
“You cannot separate the problem of corruption from freedom of speech and press. It is the tool for people to understand why we should value journalism, “he said in an interview with Efe the UN rapporteur on his first visit to Ecuador since he was appointed in 2014.
Referring to the declarations of Ecuadorian government officials about their commitment to guarantee the role of a free press to uncover cases of corruption, he considered that “the reality is that all the role of journalism is to make the Government, and other figures, responsible for their actions”.
And he added that the situation in Ecuador “has improved” under the Lenin Moreno Government, but that “there is a lot of work to be done” in the legislative and social field to guarantee that freedom and the journalistic exercise.
Kaye today presented several recommendations that will lay the foundations for a report on the situation in Ecuador that he plans to present in June 2019 before the UN Human Rights Council.
Since last Friday, he has interviewed authorities, public, private and community media, social organizations and associations, as well as relatives of the Quito journalism team kidnapped and murdered by a FARC dissident party half a year ago.
His visit, at the invitation of President Moreno, comes almost nine years after his predecessor in office traveled to Ecuador and follows that of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Édison Lanza, in August.
The representative of the UN considered that in addition to the intentions of the Government in the declarative field, is proposing and working with the National Assembly in a reform of the Organic Law of Communication dating from 2013 and is considered by journalistic associations a “gag law” .
That measure and the elimination of the Superintendence of Communication, supervisory body and media sanction, said that they are “genuine steps to change the law”, although he believes that the current regulations still penalize the profession.
Another of the factors that journalists drag in the country, he warned, is self-censorship and that “they feel they have no protection from the law to do their job.”
Kaye sees changing the negative perception that some sectors of society have about journalism, especially under the government of Rafael Correa (2007-2017) in which the profession was attacked publicly by the politician, and journalists, media and activists persecuted judicially for doing their work and expressing their opinions.
“Changing the way society views journalism and moving away from the delegitimization and stigmatization of media for many years requires a large number of steps and institutions,” he stresses.
It also involves journalists in this task and suggests the establishment of a press council, which “if done well, can be a good sign for society to perceive changes.”
Among his preliminary considerations, he points out that civil society has suffered a significant repression in the form of executive decrees, which have allowed organizations to be dissolved at their discretion, and formulates the preparation of legal regulations.
Regarding the protection of journalists, he believes that in general they are not worried about their personal security, but that women face misogynistic threats and that protocols must be established, tested and made public.
Regarding the debate created in Ecuador about what the families of kidnapped journalists and media attributed to the supposed lack of information provided by the Government in an unpublished case in the country, Kaye argues that there must be clear protocols and a balance in terms of to the provision of information.
“The protection of journalists is incredibly sensitive and the government has to have discretion to keep negotiations confidential,” he says.
But he notes that, “the worst thing for families is to knock on a door or send an email and have no answer, or one that you stop asking questions”, and defends that “the Government does not have to tell everything, but it enough to let you know what’s happening. (I)