During the latest period, political strife in Ecuador escalated into an open power struggle over the removal of 57 members of the House of Deputies and the chief justice of the Electoral Supreme Court. As a result, the rule of law in Ecuador has come under question. So strained is the political climate that gunshots have been fired and the opposing factions have threatened to assault journalists. In another development, it appears inevitable that a Constitutional Assembly will be convened to discuss such issues as government regulations on the freedom to inform and freedom of speech. In the first sign that relations between the media and the new administration would not be without conflict, President Rafael Correa ordered the press on March 3 to admit it had erroneously reported on alleged negotiations between the government and the political party Sociedad Patriótica aimed at winning a referendum that would lead to a Constitutional Assembly. The situation worsened on March 9, when the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors (AEDEP) issued a statement titled “Intolerable!” calling on the regime and the three branches of government to compromise for the sake of the country. The president responded harshly on the same day, telling a group of students that AEDEP’s statement “is immoral … and also corrupt,” because it puts the executive branch “in the same boat as Congress and the Electoral Supreme Court.” Also on the same day, the General Communications Office sent a letter to AEDEP claiming that its statement “borders on actionable” and demanding that it issue “an immediate public correction of this extremely serious accusation against the highest office in the country.” The letter further stated that “in defending the status quo, the media share responsibility for the situation in which the country finds itself and, in issuing this statement, they are doing nothing to help strengthen democracy.” The next day, on March 10, while in Saraguro in Loja province, the president described the print media in Ecuador as “news mafia,” and called a march for the following week to “show the media outlets that have sold out to powerful interests—the ousted political mafia—that there is no going back.” Other important developments in this period: On October 10, the Ecuadorian airline TAME unilaterally terminated its contract with the newspaper La Hora for the purchase of papers and advertising space. This measure was in response to an article in La Hora denying an alleged partnership between TAME and the Brazilian aviation company Embraer. Eight days later, TAME banned the Havanatur travel agency from distributing copies of La Hora on the TAME planes that it regularly charters. La Hora criticized TAME—an airline owned by the Joint Command of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, and therefore a state-owned entity—for trying to use the purchase of advertising space and copies as leverage to influence news coverage in the print media. TAME ultimately reviewed its decision and renewed its contract with La Hora as a result of the newspaper’s critical reports. On October 18, eight journalists from various media outlets were held for five hours by inmates in the women’s prison in Guayaquil during a national prison strike. On November 26—the day of the presidential runoff elections—candidate Álvaro Noboa went to the polls and, amid the commotion, asked military guards to remove the Ecuavisa reporting team before he was to make statements. The military guards forcefully shoved the cameraman and his assistant away while several of Noboa’s supporters insulted and threatened them. The following day, Ecuavisa expressed its indignation that “those who were supposed to keep order did not protect journalists covering the elections when they came under attack from the crowd. The punishment for this incident must be severe enough to set an example so that the military never does this again.” On January 2, 2007, Congressional officials reported that the main meeting hall in the recently restored Legislative Palace will feature a soundproof glass barrier. This means that the media will only be able to hear those legislators who allow themselves to be heard. If a member of Congress insults a colleague with the microphone turned off, for example, only those legislators who are present will know it. On January 24, the Ecuadorian Radio Association (AER) withdrew its recognition of its board members serving on the National Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (CONARTEL). The AER took this action to protest a draft report by the General Comptroller’s Office recommending that the frequency licenses of 823 licensees be revoked due to overdue fee payments. The watchdog agency also claimed that improprieties took place in CONARTEL between January 1, 2003, and May 30, 2005. Ten (out of a total of 20) provincial chapters of the AER decided to “release each of the members whose names are mentioned in the report so that they may exercise their right to defend themselves.” On February 9, Teleamazonas reported that Christian Zurita, the station’s chief of investigation, was threatened in “an absolutely repugnant attempt to intimidate him” while the station was looking into alleged corruption at state-owned telephone companies. The station further said that reporter Jorge Rodríguez was similarly threatened.