For those who romanticized Ecuador as a fair, democratic country with solid “freedom of the press” laws, much like America, it’s time to wake up. As I have explained in blog posts and video like this one…
An Assault on Democracy
EDITORIAL – The New York Times, January 24, 2012
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador is leading a relentless campaign against free speech, harassing his critics, forcing independent broadcasters off the air and hijacking the nation’s courts in his bid to bankrupt the country’s largest newspaper.
After Emilio Palacio, the editorial page editor of El Universo, wrote a column accusing Mr. Correa of ordering the army to open fire on a hospital during a police protest, Mr. Correa filed a criminal suit against the editor and three of the paper’s directors, claiming “aggravated defamation of a public official.”
Despite outrageous irregularities — the case was finally decided by a “temporary magistrate” who, according to an independent forensic analysis, may have outsourced the job of writing the decision to the president’s lawyer — an appeals court confirmed a $40 million award for the president, plus three-year sentences for the directors and Mr. Palacio. A final appeal by the directors is expected to be heard on Wednesday. Mr. Palacio has run out of appeals.
Looking forward to next year’s presidential elections, in which he is likely to run, Mr. Correa has also pushed through a law that would forbid the news media from “either directly or indirectly promoting any given candidate, proposal, options, electoral preferences or political thesis, through articles, specials or any other form of message.”
The Washington Post, January 24, 2012
Reporters are frequently assassinated in Mexico, and a populist government in Venezuela has driven some journalists into exile. But press freedom advocates say that no other country in Latin America is moving so fast and on so many fronts to restrain the media as tiny, banana-producing Ecuador.
President Rafael Correa, an American-educated leftist economist who has forged close alliances with Cuba and Iran, has filed a defamation lawsuit that might put the three directors of the country’s largest newspaper in jail and shutter their 90-year-old paper. The government has cobbled together a framework of laws and constitutional reforms to limit press independence, free expression groups say, while building a media conglomerate to disparage critics and counter independent media reports.
“Ecuador is moving faster than anywhere else to restrict free expression,” said Cesar Ricaurte, director of the Andean Foundation for Media Study and Observation in Quito. “There is the discourse that leads to aggression, there are the lawsuits, there are laws to muzzle. And you also have a powerful propaganda system.”