Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
The constitution guarantees freedom of the press. However, given that defamation and slander remain criminal offenses punishable by up to three years in prison, these guarantees are often weak in practice. Concern about the implementation of such restrictive libel laws often results in self-censorship, affecting reporting on public officials and the armed forces. In October, the Inter American Press Association faulted the level of compliance with the 2004 Law on Transparency and Freedom of Information.
Ecuadorian journalists were subject to occasional government harassment and other types of extralegal intimidation in 2006, though the level of attacks was low compared with the regional average. In February, two journalists were killed in 24 hours in the Guayaquil area; no arrests were made, though the police described the murders as unrelated to the journalists’ work. Under President Alfredo Palacio, a state of emergency was declared in March in six provinces experiencing fierce social protests. In the following weeks, several journalists were detained briefly, and one radio station was temporarily censored. On August 13, the building of the publisher of two Guayaquil dailies was sprayed with bullets, causing damage but no injuries. The presidential candidacy of banana magnate Alvaro Noboa caused serious tensions with the press. Noboa avoided the media and several times accused specific outlets of “dishonoring” journalism and being “accomplices to the destruction of the country.” One critical journalist received a death threat and had the transmission of his television program interrupted, acts he ascribed to Noboa backers.
Except for one government-owned radio station, broadcast and print media outlets are privately owned and express a broad range of editorial viewpoints. However, owing to self-censorship regarding sensitive issues such as the military, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that the media are generally nonconfrontational. Most media outlets are heavily influenced by their financiers and often reflect the political perspectives of their sponsors. This proved to be a particularly volatile situation in the context of the 2006 elections; during the campaign, many commentators were accused of crossing the line between analysis and partisanship. The broadcast media are required to give the government free airtime; thus stations can be forced to show programs featuring the president and other officials. In 2006, airtime was granted to presidential candidates as well. Access to the internet is not restricted by the government, but the medium is used by only 8 percent of the population.