The Inter American Press Association describes as a new attack the fines levied by the government of Ecuador on privately owned and independent media for content that it regarded as counter-productive to the interests of the authorities.
The association declared that the government wants to determine what is news and information of public interest and how facts should be published, which it says represents a clear interference and a violation of the editorial freedom that the press must have for a democracy to exist.
The newspaper La Hora maintained its constitutional right to resist paying a fine of $3,540 imposed by the superintendency of information and communication, the entity enforcing the communications organic law, for not having covered and published declarations by the mayor of Loja Feb. 23.
Association President Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Perú, newspaper La República, declared, “The argument for this fine provides us the rationale for what we have been saying about this law, it being a weapon that the government uses to intervene in content and overrule the editorial criteria of the media.” He added that the Ecuadorean government “once again is showing how it uses regulations to control public discourse.”
Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, stated that with this new attack the government, through its state interventionism of communications “comes to the point of defining what is information of public interest, where and when it should be published, and what is the language that the media should use,” in order to publish the official texts that the government demands.
The Ecuadorean authorities, not being satisfied with the publication of a response that a minister called for in El Universo, demanded that the newspaper re-publish the document, information that will have to appear in the space indicated and with the headline and adjectives required by superintendency. Not complying with these requirements the newspaper could see a reoccurrence of the request or face contempt charges and being ordered to pay increased fines.
Additionally, the newspaper El Comercio was ordered by the superintendency to publish on its front page a correction and public apologies to a minister and the general manager of a state-run hydraulic project as a result of a news item published April 5. The order was the result of a complaint filed by the minister.