Ecuador Referendum Threatens Press Freedom | Freedom House

Ecuador Referendum Threatens Press Freedom

Washington

Freedom House is deeply concerned about the passing of a constitutional referendum in Ecuador that will give President Correa undue influence over the country’s media, as well as its judiciary.
 
Ecuadoreans were asked to vote on ten issues, including a mandate to create a commission to regulate media content as well as to prohibit media enterprises from investing in other sectors.  The regulatory body, which in practice will be controlled by the government, will oversee television, radio and print content. Their mandate will cover the overly vague categories of violence, sex and discrimination and would have the power to administer sanctions against violators. Although the referendum passed on all issues, the proposal regarding a media regulatory commission won by the narrowest margin, a sign that Ecuadoreans recognize the potential threat of government interference.
 
“Correa’s continuous demonization of independent media and the use of criminal defamation suits to silence journalists are having a chilling effect on the press in Ecuador,” said Viviana Giacaman, senior program manager for Latin America at Freedom House. “Attention and action from the international community is urgent in order to safeguard democracy and human rights of the Ecuadorean people.”
 
President Correa filed a criminal suit on March 21, 2011 for $80 million in damages against the newspaper "El Universo" and the columnist, Emilio Palacio, along with the organization’s executives, face up to three years in prison for printing a "slanderous" article. The complaint was prompted by a February 6 editorial by Palacio describing the September 2010 police rebellion in which he referred to Correa as "the dictator." In an interview, Correa called the column irresponsible and insisted that the paper's directors be held responsible for publishing the piece.
 
“Freedom House calls upon the Ecuadorean government to adhere to its obligation to respect international standards of freedom of expression,” said Giacaman.
 
Ecuador is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.
 
For more information on Ecuador, visit:
 
 
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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