Press advocate denounced Ecuadorian attacks on paper

A campaign by the government of Ecuador aimed at putting pressure on and discrediting the newspaper Hoy was denounced Thursday by the Inter American Press Association, which expressed its support for the newspaper and its editor, Jaime Mantilla, who is also the association’s president.

Since late last month the Communication Secretariat within Ecuador’s Presidency has been waging an intense campaign to discredit the Quito-based newspaper through government newspapers, national radio and television networks. This appears to have its origin in a report by the AFP news agency May 31, that Hoy headlined “Correa describes homosexual marriage as a fad.” According to the government, the headline seriously distorted the article involving President Rafael Correa.

The newspaper June 4 published a letter from National Communication Secretary Fernando Alvarado Espinel in which he said that the headline “does not correspond to the truth.” Hoy stated that the paper “did not distort the report.”

The official attacks on the newspaper have been increasing. In a recent Saturday nationwide hookup Correa warned that if the paper did not issue a correction “we will go to court,” and this past week several national radio and television networks aired broadcasts which said “it is reported” that “up to now Hoy has not rectified the lie nor published the truth as the Constitution demands …. We continue to count the hours until the truth is published.”

The chairman of the press association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, said the organization “is very familiar with the aggressive style used by the government to confront those that criticize its actions and that maintain an independent journalistic stance.”

On the occasion of its 31st anniversary, Hoy June 7 ran an editorial in which it recounted the “gradual actions to destroy its financial situation” applied by the government of President Correa. Among these Hoy mentioned that several years ago the Communication Department prohibited “government and related entities” from advertising in the newspaper. In addition, the government cancelled subscriptions and contracts with the newspaper.

The editorial also stated that “the economic, political and social pressures have continued against the newspaper, its editor and other associates.” Editor Jaime Mantilla “has faced great pressures and judgments” and has been the victim of discrediting campaigns. On a number of occasions President Correa has expressed his wish that the newspaper shut down, because “almost nobody reads it” and for being “at the edge of bankruptcy.”

A new note from the communications secretary, Alvarado Espinel, Monday rebutted Hoy’s contention concerning the various actions taken by the government against the newspaper to harm it financially. In a sarcastic tone he said that “it is just an excuse which shows the growing lack of trust of its readers due to its articles not being based on the truth.”

Alvarado Espinel added that he would make his note public because, he said, “the people deserve the truth and not the lies that are constantly divulged by those belonging to the newspaper association, ADEP and the IAPA cartel.” He was referring to the Ecuadorean Association of Newspaper Editors and Publishers and the Inter American Press Association.

Paolillo said, “The disrespectful style used by the representative of the government is regrettable. However in this case we are not surprised by the use of insulting words and mockery when debating.”

The Inter American Press Association is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.

Editor’s Note: A.M. Costa Rica’s parent company is a member of the association.

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