The Human Rights Foundation said Thursday that it condemns the systematic attacks on press freedom and the climate of self-censorship in which independent media operates as a result of government actions in Ecuador.
The Organic Law of Communications, enacted in June 2013, restricts the type of information that can be broadcast and published by the media, the organization said. The enactment of the law combined with the introduction of government institutions with the legal authority to monitor, intervene, control, and impose penalties on media has led to more than 100 legal proceedings against journalists, the shutdown of the print edition of at least four newspapers, and a looming threat to other media outlets that they must follow the rules or close their doors, it said.
With the approval of the law, President Rafael Correa has intensified his campaign to put an end to independent journalism in Ecuador and eliminate any trace of critical public opinion that contradicts the government’s propaganda machine, composed of state-owned media outlets, said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation. “In addition to using all three powers of the state to persecute anyone who counters his government’s media hegemony, President Correa threatens and insults journalists in Ecuador and abroad through smear campaigns shown on mandatory national broadcasts and his weekly TV show,” added Halvorssen.
The communicaton law gives the government broad powers to regulate both the content as well as the quality of what can or cannot be reported by the media. Specifically, the law prohibits prior censorship, but rather than define censorship as state action to censure the independent press, the law classifies it as the independent media’s ability to choose the subjects they cover. For example, the law forces the press to cover and disseminate events of public interest and considers an act of preliminary censorship to be any deliberate and recurrent omission of the dissemination of issues of public interest.
In the application of these provisions, more than 100 administrative processes against various media outlets have been filed with the information and communication superintendence, which began operations in October 2013.
The newspaper El Universo is among the media outlets penalized under the new law. The paper was fined $90,000 earlier this year for publishing a satirical cartoon.