World newspaper association says Correa shuns democracy

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers issued a report Monday that illustrates how the government of Ecuador is carrying out “a sophisticated strategy of marginalizing all voices independent of state power.”

The report, built on the organization’s research and on the findings from a mission to Quito and Guayaquil from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2, reveals that the Ecuadorean government is “establishing a strict control over all arenas of public debate, while couching this in a debate centered around media plurality.”

The report reveals contradictions between the official discourse, which calls from greater media plurality, and the authoritarian practices of the president of the republic, Rafael Correa, and his government.

“The government appears to have decided to follow a path that distances it from democracy,” said Christoph Riess. “Not only is it the wrong path, but it is a dangerous path as well”.

The report comes out only a day before the national court of justice hears an appeal from El Universo. The newspaper’s former opinion editor, Emilio Palacio, the newspaper and its executives Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, were sentenced in July 2011 to three years in prison on defamation charges and ordered to pay $40 million to the president. The sentence was upheld by an appeal court in September. The case has caused international indignation at the president’s pursuit of a criminal case to intimidate voices critical to his administration.

“With upcoming elections in one year’s time, to which Rafael Correa will most probably be a candidate, we must be ready for more violations to freedom of expression,” said Riess. “The international community will closely follow events.”

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, based in Paris, France, represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.

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