Attacks by the government of Ecuador on the press in the past few months reached a level of danger not seen in the previous two years, not only because of their number and increasing violence but because of the threat of a bill for a Communications Law which, if approved, would mean the virtual elimination of freedom of expression. Unofficial reports indicate that the bill was modified a lot during the debate, but it still threatens press freedom. The bill seeks the following: First, creation of a new communication oversight body, made up mostly of government officials and chaired by a direct representative of the president. This agency would be empowered to mete out punishment to broadcast and print media, including shutting them down permanently. Second: creation of a media registry, which would have to be renewed every year, thereby putting the media’s fate in government hands. Third: If a member of the public or an official feels offended by the press he or she would have legal recourse to require the media not to publish any information about the matter until the respective authority passes judgment. Other political sectors have presented their own bills, but there is no possibility that they will even be considered. Their content also does not satisfy the requirements of press freedom. The debate on this legal bill comes amid an increasingly tense atmosphere, as the insults and verbal attacks emanating from the Presidency far from lessening are on the rise. Television channel Teleamazonas has already been fined on two occasions and, according to the government, a third fine would be reason to shut it down for at least six months. Already under way are new proceedings over a report that the channel broadcast from Puná Island which according to President Rafael Correa was what provoked later disturbances there. The fear of the channel shutdown has heightened because the president has become involved, to the point that in his weekly radio broadcast he “ordered” Teleamazonas to be shut down after it broadcast an audio piece in which it recognizes changes in the constitutional text approved in Montecristi. In this period a number of journalists and news media have been victims of physical attacks. Juan Carlos Calderón Vivanco, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Expreso, complained of having been threatened with a revolver at his head in June in reprisal for a series of reports on alleged wrongdoing in the Health Ministry. The Ecuador correspondent of the international TV network Telesur, Elena Rodríguez, was beaten and assaulted by a group of three people. Persons linked to the governing party Alianza País appeared outside the building of the newspaper El Universo to reject, with insults and shouts, information published about the National Financial Corporation. Journalist Emilio Palacio responded by publishing an article repudiating the attack, which led to President Correa publicly calling on the Corporation’s president, Camilo Samán, to take legal action against him. Samán did, calling for the journalist to be sentenced to three years in prison. Other relevant developments in chronological order were: Javier Urrutia had to leave as manager of RTS Televisión because of government pressure. Government sources said it could not guarantee his safety in the country. On March 26 President Correa filed a formal complaint with a Guayaquil police precinct against Expreso columnist Rómulo López Sabando, accusing him of having denounced the alleged arrival of coins bearing a new demonination, El Cóndor, intended to replace the dollar. On April 7 unidentifed persons splashed acid on the equipment of Telecosta televsion channel in Esmeraldas province. On April 13 journalists Alcidiades Onofre and Luis Felipe Varela of the TV networks TC and RTU were beaten up as they were covering the seizure of sacks of urea subsidized by the government and being illegally sold in Los Ríos province. On April 24, at the height of the last election campaign advertising season, the state channel GamaTV broadcast a program about alleged battles between the Guayaquil city government and social groups. The OAS representative, Enrique Correa, expressed concern about the program. On April 30 the National Radio and Television Council (Conartel) prohibited broadcast media from airing videos or recordings that incite racial, ethnic or cultural discrimination. On May 13 the Transparency Ministry presented to the Radio and Television Frequency Concessions Auditing Committee a report in which it is stated that some 130 concession recipients are said to have acted outside the law. On May 17 the Telecommuncations Superintendency requested full lists of the employes of television channels and radio stations in the administrtative, technical and press areas, including names, ID numbers, positions and the duties that they carry out. On May 25 journalist Rubén Morocho of Radio Visión in the city of Cuenca complained that his access to public information had been curtailed as a reprisal for his investigating alleged wrongdoing in the municipal government. On May 28 buildings of the Teleamazonas television network in Quito had explosive devices containing leaflets hurled at them. On June 3 Conartel confirmed a first fine of $20 on Teleamazonas for having broadcast images of a bullfight. On June 9, Juan Carlos Calderón Vivanco, editor of the daily Expreso, reported that unidentified people had threatened him with a gun a month earlier. The journalist assumes that the attack was because of published articles about alleged wrongdoing in the Public Health Ministry. On June 20 President Correa issued a decree prohibiting publicly-owned companies from having contracts with those whose shareholders are in tax-free zones, resulting in the announcement that the government will not place advertising in El Comercio, El Universo, La Hora, Expreso and the magazine Vanguardia. This was a presidential reprisal for an investigation by Expreso which revealed that President Correa’s brother had million-dollar contracts with the government. On June 25 unidentified assailants shot at Eduardo Vite, news director of TV network Telecosta in Esmeraldas province. In July the chief justice of the Provincial Court of El Oro province filed a criminal charge against the newspaper Correo for having cited statements by Justice Minister Néstor Arbito about alleged wrongdoing in the Criminal Court. On July 3 the headquarters of the magazine Vanguardia in Quito was attacked by four armed and masked men. They took off with several computers. On June 9 Conartel banned the re-broadcast of “The Simpsons” program and other comic series aired by Teleamozonas and Ecuavisa. On that same day, Nelson Chacaguasay, editor and publisher of the weekly La Verdad in El Oro province was sentenced to four months in prison on a charge of libeling former minister Francisco Quevedo Madrid in a report that linked him to a massive fraud operation. On July 10 a vehicle slammed into the taxi in which journalist Mayra Benalcázar and her son were traveling, causing them several injuries. She had handled the media agenda of José Ignacio Chauvin, a former government official involved in a drug trafficking case. On July 18 the president, in response to statements by the former governor of Loja to El Comercio, threatened the newspaper’s editor in his weekly radio address, saying, “I ask Mrs. Guadalupe Mantilla whether I take the version in El Telégrafo of a neighbor or of an employee that she fired or who hates her and says that she is an exploiter, shameless or drug trafficker. Does that seem right to you?” The former Loja provincial governor had said to El Comercio that he had warned the president about the contracts that his brother Fabricio had in that province. On July 21, Esmeraldas municipal officials prevented journalist Juan Alberto Endara de Telecosta from covering a cultural event. On July 22 Conartel slapped a second fine, of $40, on Teleamazonas for having broadcast live the denunciation by an opposition sector about an alleged clandestine electoral computing center. Pending are three legal proceedings initiated by Conartel against Teleamazonas on June 9 for broadcasting information about oil exploration by PDVSA on Puná Island, which could produce “social upheaval.” Some days earlier President Corea had announced fines on the channel for this. In addition, on August 29 the president announced a fourth legal action against the channel for having broadcast a recording in which he supposedly acknowledges that the constitutional text approved in Montecristi had been changed. Under current law these two new legal proceedings could result in the closure of Teleamazonas for 90 days and then forever. On the same day, Carlos Alvarado, head of the Percrea advertising agency, and brother of Vinicio Alvarado, general secretary of the government, tried to intimidate Marlon Puertas, journalist of the daily Hoy. “I called you to give me explanations.” “Why did you do it?” “Is it something personal?” “What interests do you serve?” he asked. On July 23, criminals attacked the state channel Ecuador TV and took several computers. On August 10 on assuming the presidency for the second time, Correa described the press in his address as “the biggest adversary with a clear political role, though without any democratic legitimacy.” On August 14 Carlos Proaño, a reporter with Radio Visión in Quito, received a telephoned threat. Since May he had been investigating alleged acts of corruption that were believed to implicate senior government officials. On August 15 President Correa showed pictures of an alleged news vendor who called Guadalupe Mantilla, editor of El Comercio, an “exploiter.” The president instructed Labor Relations Minister Richard Espinoza to meet with the vendors of El Comercio and other newspapers to attend to their complaints. On August 26 President Correa announced that newsprint imports would have to pay 12% Valued Added Tax (VAT). The decision was later included in the tax amendments that the executive branch sent to the National Assembly and which are about to be passed. Also on that day a group allied with the pro-government Alianza País party, calling themselves small businessmen, gathered in front of the offices of the daily El Universo to support Camilo Samán, director of the National Financial Corporation (CFN) who had been linked to irregularities in several articles in the newspaper. On September 3, Samán filed a lawsuit against Emilio Palacio, the editor of the opinion section of the newspaper, for an article questioning the attack on the newspaper. In one of his Saturday programs, President Corea suggested to Samán that he sue the newspaper. On September 7 the hosts of the programs “Foro Petrolero” (Oil Forum) and “Bajo la Lupa” (Under the Microscope) aired by the state-run cable TV Cablenoticias were informed by the manager that their programs would no longer be broadcast. In recent weeks “Foro Petrolero” had criticized a number of oil exploration contracts. “Bajo la Lupa” was hosted by Joyce de Ginatta, president of the Inter-American Management Federation, who complained that the channel’s manager had told her the program would be taken off the air because “he didn’t like the content.” On September 23 news photographer Raúl Lluno of the Quito newspaper La Hora was arrested and held for 20 minutes by a police officer as he was covering student protests. On September 24 reporter Rafael Castro and cameraman Jorge Cabezas from the program “En Busca de Respuestas” (In Search of Answers), aired by state-run channel Ecuador TV, were beaten up by students taking part in demonstrations in Guayaquil. On October 13 the Education Ministry notified Expreso that it must hand over its files and disclose the sources it had used or was going to use in the future as part of an exposure of wrongdoing in the supply of school texts. On October 19 the IAPA mission to Ecuador concluded that the legislative bill submitted by the government was “restrictive, will generate governmental censorship, will encourage self-censorsbhip and will limit investigative reporting, going against the role of the press in a democracy.” On October 22 a cameraman with state-run TV channel Estado TC Televisión was beaten by university students in Chimborazo province amid protests against the executive branch’s bill for a Universities Law. On October 28 two citizens were arrested and charged with “inciting separatism” for having posted around the city a number of signs calling for Guayaquil to declare President Correa persona non grata. They were released on bail during the first week of November. Lucy Freire of La Prensa de Riobamba, said newspapers of central eastern Ecuador were intimidated in two ways: tax pressure in the form of demands by the tax agency and, in the case of La Prensa de Riobamba, an offer to buy from a group of people who, the paper determined by investigating, belong to TV Cable company. The government owns a percentage of that company´s stock.