Press freedom in the country continues to deteriorate. Since the inauguration of President Lucio Gutiérrez in January 2003, government statements have reflected an abiding enmity against journalists and the media as a whole. Throughout these six months, journalists and the media have been targeted in physical and verbal attacks. In comparison to the previous 25 years, it is safe to say that this has been year in which freedom of the press has been subjected to the greatest difficulties, pressures and attacks. The most noteworthy events during this period are the following: On November 14, President Gutiérrez demanded that El Comercio of Quito reveal the source for its claim that the Partido Sociedad Patriótica (Patriotic Society Party) — to which he belongs — had received a donation of $30,000 from drug cartels for the election campaign that brought him to office. Although the president initially threatened to have the publishers prosecuted if they refused to reveal their source, he withdrew this threat three days later. El Comercio refused to provide the information under Article 81 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right of journalists to keep their sources confidential. The newspaper also stated that its sources were “trustworthy and reliable.” Members of the ruling party burned copies of the newspaper and banned government agencies from buying it. On November 28, the president sent a letter to the Attorney General and attached a copy of El Comercio because, he wrote, this could be a case of “conspiracy and attacks against public order.” In the past few months, a number of journalists have been subjected to acts that could be considered intimidation. Testimony on these actions was rendered at the Attorney General’s office, under rules of confidentiality that apply to statements eligible for investigation. On December 12, the Supreme Court of Quito sentenced Rodrigo Fierro Benítez, a columnist at El Comercio, to one month in prison for alleged libel against legislator León Febres Cordero. Also on December 12, indigenous leader Humberto Cholango was arrested by order of Quito Police Chief Fabián Villarruel on the charge of insulting the president (an offense forbidden by law). Cholango had called the president “a liar” and accused him of being “incompetent and incoherent.” He was released two days later. On December 17, several journalists were taken hostage at the women’s prison of Guayaquil, where inmates were demanding improvements to prison facilities. The journalists were released the following day without further incident. Also in December, journalist María Patricia Ramos, a correspondent in Machara for El Universo of Guayaquil, was verbally attacked by city council members when she raised a number of questions on the city’s procedure for awarding water and sewage contracts to a mixed public-private enterprise. The local Colegio of Journalists expressed its solidarity with the journalists by not reporting the information provided by the hostile council members. José Toapanta, a radio personality on La Voz del Naranjal, was physically assaulted by Ruperto Espinoza Rivas, the district mayor. According to Toapanta, he was attacked for having reported on the mayor’s trial for having overpriced a malaria fumigation contract. In addition to the physical assault on Toapanta, the mayor’s entourage destroyed some of the station’s equipment while looking for the tape containing the report. Government advisors publicly announced a “blacklist” consisting of enemies of the government. The list included several journalists. Also, a military intelligence report was made public amidst denials from the authorities that it even existed. The report included names of media outlets and journalists in the section dealing with threats to national stability. Miguel Rivadeneira, news director at Radio Quito, reported that he had received five death threats after he conducted an interview with a military general regarding possible arms trafficking in which members of the army might be involved. On November 9, chauffeur Ricardo Mendoza died as a result of an attack that was likely intended for his boss, Carlos Muñoz, news director at the television station Telesistema. The attack occurred after the vehicle carrying Muñoz and Mendoza through the streets of Guayaquil had stopped at a red light. Two men shot at them seven times. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the People’s Revolutionary Militias (MRP), a self-proclaimed “terrorist” group that accuses Telesistema of not broadcasting their statements. The alleged assailants warned that they will carry out further acts against journalists and the media. On March 3, the residence of Iván Toral, of the family that publishes El Tiempo newspaper of Cuenca, was shot at by unidentified subjects. The attack took place in the evening and there were no victims. Toral acts as production manager at the newspaper. Of the paper’s owners, Toral is the one whose residence is the easiest to reach for this type of attack, which is presumably why the assailants chose to attack there. During this period there have been no changes in legislation regarding press freedom. The bill on freedom of information submitted in September 2002 by the Ecuadorean Association of Newspaper Publishers is expected to be passed in the coming weeks during its second and final debate in Congress.