Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Because a colleague recently visited...

...Ecuador, this Los Angeles Times report about the growing hostile attitude of the government toward the media caught my attention.
Since taking office in 2007, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has been in a war of words with the media in his country. He's used archaic libel laws to pursue criminal charges against the owners of El Universo and a columnist at the newspaper. His government has pushed through a law that severely restricts the media's ability to cover political campaigns and elections; indeed, it goes so far as to ban any media reports that can benefit or hurt a candidate. And now he's set his sights on international media observers.
For what it's worth, Reporters Without Borders in 2010 (the last year for which information is available) ranked Ecuador 101st in its press freedom index. In its summary of the country, RWB had few positives for the Ecuadoran political leadership.  
A few months after being sworn in, President Correa created a national public television station, which Ecuador previously lacked. A radio station and, thanks to the acquisition of El Telégrafo, a newspaper subsequently completed the array of state media. Nearly three years later, on 6 April 2010, a score of El Telégrafo journalists resigned citing excessive government pressure. The state also manages three other TV stations: TC Televisión, Gamavisión and CN3. The first two were confiscated from businessmen convicted of embezzlement. Overall, relations continue to be tense between the Carondelet Palace (the seat of government) and the privately-owned media, which often manage to upset the president.
The growing polarisation has led to an increase in displays of hostility towards journalists. There have been more than a dozen attacks on media employees since the start of 2010, some of them violent. The Quito correspondent of the pan-Latin American TV station Telesur, Elena Rodríguez, was the target of an exceptionally brutal attack on 16 September 2009. An anonymous letter confirmed that the attack was linked to her work as a journalist.
My colleague said he had enjoyed his trip to Ecuador but wouldn't be moving there any time soon. Though he's not a journalist, you perhaps can understand why those of us who appreciate a vibrant and free media might come to the same conclusion.

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