Ecuador’s press takeover criticized

The Inter American Press Association has called the takeover and closing of the Ecuador newspaper Hoy, ordered by the state superintendence of businesses, allegedly due to financial problems, a violation of freedom of expression that restricts people’s right to enjoy a wide spectrum of information.

The superintendence, a state agency charged with controlling the operations, dissolution and liquidation of entities facing financial difficulties, Tuesday intervened at Editores e Impresos Edimpres S.A., the company that publishes the newspaper Hoy and edits other news media. The company’s lawyer, Diego Ordóñez, told local media that the superintendence representatives arrived without prior notification and proceeded with the forced liquidation of company assets.

Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the press association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, offered his organization’s solidarity with Hoy’s executives and employees as they face an uncertain future.

“We note with sadness,” Paolillo said, “how with the closure of Hoy’s activities another voice of dissent is silenced in Ecuador, and the public’s right to enjoy plurality of information and have access to differing streams of thought is once again trampled upon.”

The superintendence ordered an immediate halt to all the operations by the company, including the print, online and other editions, and limited it to collect amounts due and pay its debts. Hoy, founded 32 years ago, posted its last update on its Web site Tuesday afternoon.

The company, whose name appears on a superintendence list announcing the dissolution of 700 companies in Ecuador, had begun a process of voluntary liquidation due to the loss of at least half of its capital over the last two years. However, according to Ecuadorean law it is not required for a company in a state of liquidation to suspend its operations, as on occasions it manages to overcome the crisis and return to normal operation.

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, warned that the loss in the press freedom space has negative consequences for democratic institutions.

June 29 Hoy, whose editor and publisher is Jaime Mantilla, announced the suspension of its print edition and the continuation of the online version and weekend activities. Mantilla said that the decision was the result of an ongoing advertising boycott of the newspaper and the cancellation of printing contracts, among other financial setbacks.

The IAPA 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 print publications, including the parent firm of A.M. Costa Rica, from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.

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