Watchdog group criticizes Ecuador’s Corea on media

The closure of another independent media outlet and numerous public comments made by President Rafael Correa attacking private media are an alarming illustration of Correa’s growing attempts to silence critical media, said a U.S. watchdog organization. Freedom House called on President Correa to retract his order preventing government officials from speaking to private media and to allow all journalists and media organizations to operate without interference.

During his weekly radio address Satruday, Correa asked government ministers to stop granting interviews to private media whom he claims are corrupt. Political coordinator Betty Tola confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday that cabinet members would refuse to grant interviews to private media, because he said they received clear instructions from Correa.

These actions were demonstrated when the minister of interior Jose Serrano canceled his interview with the television station Ecuvisa, said freedom House. During the 42nd Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States, Correa attacked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its expert on freedom of expression, claiming they were working to protect private media interests.

“Freedom of expression continues to be severely threatened in Ecuador,” said Daniel Calingaert, vice president of policy and external affairs at Freedom House. “What happens in Ecuador could have negative repercussions throughout the region, which has witnessed a rapid decline in press freedom. Freedom House urges the international community to keep a close watch on the climate for media in Ecuador and to raise concerns about this issue, both publicly and privately, with Correa’s administration.”

President Correa’s campaign against media has included the closure of independent radio and television stations across the country. On June 6, a radio station in the city of Ambadio – Radio Net – was shut down. Radio Net was the fifth media outlet closed in Ecuador within the last two weeks. The National Communications Council used the telecommunications act to justify the closure of these media outlets.

The agency claimed that Radio Net was closed due to non-compliance with the law and for failing to pay its operations fees for the last six months. Prior to Radio Net’s closure, a television station owned by the Provincial Government of Morona Santiago, and a radio station in Sucumbíos were closed on May 23. The following day, authorities closed a television and radio station in the Amazonian province of Napo.

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