Full freedom of expression and of information does not exist. The government is taking decisions that worsen it. No existe plena libertad de expresión y de información. Las cinco funciones del Estado están tomando decisiones que la deterioran. Three journalists have been killed during these past six months, although only one case could be connected to the victim’s work. Many have received threats and minor physical attacks. The courts continue handing down criminal sentences for such things as contempt and defaming the authorities. In this period there were three convictions and the start of a number of legal proceedings for offenses of opinion. The court fined El Universo $500 for publishing a photo of minors, accusing it of pursuing political ends. This despite the fact that the newspaper had the authorization of the father, an opposition member of Congress who says that the photo is part of the evidence that he has to show that his political party had a pact with the government. La ley establece que la primera sanción es la multa ya puesta al periódico, la segunda es el cierre por tres días y la tercera sanción es la clausura indefinida. The regime continues to use public resources to systematically attack and “deny” what the media, journalists and people with opposing views say. President Rafael Correa promotes the idea that the privately-owned media should be rejected because they seek the enrichment of their owners, and that is why there continues to be a prohibition of his ministers giving interviews to those that he calls “mercantile media” – Ecuavisa and Teleamazonas television and the newspapers El Universo, El Comercio, Hoy and La Hora. This decision has legal support, as the judiciary has denied a protective action that sought to declare it unconstitutional. El 13 de octubre el presidente Correa advirtió que destituirá al funcionario público del gobierno que entregue información por sí solo a un asambleísta ya que considera que hay un exceso de fiscalización a su gobierno, que entregar tanta información es un gasto innecesario de papelería y que todos los pedidos de los asambleístas deben ser encausados a través del Presidente de la Asamblea. La Constitución Ecuatoriana establece que todo ciudadano tiene derecho a pedir información a los funcionarios públicos. También existe la Ley Orgánica de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública que determina la forma de hacer pedidos. The National Assembly continues pursuing several laws, among them a Communication Law, which if enacted would aggravate the existing legal framework. The government’s proposed Penal Law would eliminate the word “contempt” but maintain this figure and make it more robust, as well as creating the offense of “political harassment.” In full force is the Democracy Code (the name given to the Organic Law on Elections), which prohibits media from disseminating reports that can persuade to vote for or against candidates. The Constitutional Court lifted the precautionary measures requested by the Ecuadorean Association of Newspaper Publishers (AEDEP) and the Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of Media (Fundamedios), despite the fact that there is no resolution yet of the challenge of to the constitutionality of such veto raised by those organizations. The National Electoral Council on June 15 issued a code of ethics in which it asks its officials to avoid and abstain from giving information. The Judiciary Council recommended to the courts that they publish their announcements in the state-owned newspaper El Telégrafo rather than in the privately-owned papers. The National Telecommunications Council issued a regulation that orders companies providing telecommunications services to send it the databases of its clients’ IPs. Those in the know say this is a violation of privacy and a possible form of controlling social media. Self-censorship has gained ground. Several media owners have preferred to shut down programs that could annoy the government. Janet Hinostroza preferred to give up being an investigative reporter and stop the publication of an investigation into possible corruption in the government after receiving threats. The newspaper El Comercio temporarily suspended publishing cybernauts’ comments on its Web site, due to a government threat to take legal action against the paper and the readers that in its view libel it. The establishment is so beaten up and controlled by politicians and criminal gangs that those pursued are practically defenseless. It is becoming common that those affected by the violation of the right to free speech find their last hope in the Inter-American Human Rights System and not in the country. The Organization of American States agreed to attend to a request by Ecuador to reform the system of protection of human rights which would reduce resources for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Despite the fact that the government invited the IACHR to visit the country and see for itself in situ the state of freedom of expression such a visit has not come about. The most significant violations during this six-month period are: The four inspectors comprising the Citizens Oversight body that investigated contracts between Fabricio Correa, the President’s brother, and the state were taken to court on a charge of false testimony, after the President asked the court to do so. They have been declared to have been politically persecuted and are seeking to go into exile in other countries. In February 2011 the inspectors had concluded that President Correa was informed about the hundreds of million dollar contracts his brother Fabricio had with the state for the construction of a number of public works. The oversight body was set up by the Citizens Participation Council, one of five functions of the state, at the request of the President. Some 20 regional radio and television stations were shut down during these last six months. Among them were: Radio Cosmopolita “La Pantera 960 AM”, of Quito; radio stations RU Matriz Cadena Sur Ecuador in the city of Machala, and K-mil in Huaquillas, both in El Oro province; Radio Sucre in Portoviejo; Radio Morena FM in Guayaquil and Radio Impacto in Latacunga. The authorities say that the closures were due to non-compliance with current technical and financial requirements, while several of those affected claim they were a political retaliation. The Electoral Litigious Court, part of the country’s electoral system, imposed a fine of $80,000 on the magazine Vistazo; this decision overrides a favorable ruling that the magazine had obtained in December 2011. The offense is that of having published an editorial in which it called for a “No” vote to various questions in the May 7, 2011 referendum, during the days of electoral silence required by law in prior to each election. The state-owned newspaper El Telégrafo has not been fines despite having published two articles that encourage a “Yes” vote on those same days of electoral silence. The Cofiec case encapsulates a number of infractions of freedom of expression. Cofiec is one of the banks seized by the government after the banking crisis at the late 1900s and that is being run by the trust fund No Más Impunidad (No More Impunity), which is in the hands of Pedro Delgado, President Correa’s cousin. The bank granted an $800,000 loan to Gastón Duzac of Argentina, who presented as sureties future monetary streams from companies belonging to the Ecuadorean state itself. After receiving the money Duzac transferred it to New York and left the country. Reporter Janet Hinostroza received serious threats after her investigation titled “Lo Vínculos del Poder” (The Links of Those In Power), and said she would be temporarily stopping work. On September 11, the magazine Vanguardia received a request from the Pichincha Public Prosecutor’s Office to, as under the law, in three days name the author of the article “Los Magos de la Banca Móvil” (The Magicians of the Mobile Bank). The office acted after receiving such requirement from Francisco Endara, brother-in-law of Pedro Delgado (the President/s cousin). For his part, Pedro Delgado made a similar request to El Comercio and the blog of the Pichincha Free Workers Federation over an article titled “Manejo Ilegal de Billetera Móvil, Créditos Vinculados de Cofiec y Negociaciones con Irán” (Illegal Handling of Mobile Wallet, Loans Linked to Cofiec and Negotiations with Iran). For the second time in less than two years Vanguardia’s computer equipment was seized. In these last six months it was done by the Labor Relations Ministry, alleging that the magazine has a fine of $30,000 for not having hired the number of disabled people that the law requires. Other important cases: On May 5, reporters who had gone to cover a meeting of the National Intelligence Secretary, Raúl Patiño, with neighborhood leaders in the town of Portoviejo, were ordered out of the Eloy Alfaro coliseum and prevented from recording, photographing or holding interviews. On May 26, President Rafael Correa tore up a copy of the newspaper La Hora and called on his followers to support him by not buying the media that he described as corrupt. He was angry because he felt his words were being distorted. On May 28, article writer Miguel Macías Carmigniani of El Comercio was accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office over the content of his article “¿Familias alternativas?” (Alternative Families). Groups of homosexuals, gays, lesbians and transsexuals claim the article is an incitement to hatred, which is prohibited under the Constitution. On June 4, the Ecuadorean Social Security Institute (IESS) ordered the seizure of the assets of the newspaper La Verdad, which has been published for 68 years in the city of Ibarra, for non-payment of social security contributions of its employees. A few days later the provincial governor said that the possibility was being studied of turning the newspaper into a publicly-owned company. On June 6, officials of the Tungurahua Province Police Force, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Telecommunications Superintendent’s Office shut down and impounded the equipment of the radio station Radio Net in the town of Ambato. The argument is that the media outlet owed money for rental of frequencies. That same day, the Judiciary Council “recommended” to the courts that legal notices be published in the state-owned newspaper El Telégrafo. Since then there has been a reduction of such notices in the independent newspapers. On June 12, the temporary judge of the Tungurahua Second Civil Court, Nelly Paredes Ochoa, sentenced journalist Wagner Ortega Arcos to pay $10,000 to former mayor Iris Vergara Echegaray, who had sued him for libel in 2005. The La Hora reporter was sued because he wrote a report in which he said that the former mayor “was accused of an alleged fraud in the purchase and sale of an automobile.” On June 16, President Correa in his weekly Saturday address showed a photo of the executive editor of El Universo, Gustavo Cortez, accusing him of being “A sinister type, a hater” and of being responsible for investigative reports on alleged acts of corruption of government officials. In addition, he said that Emilio Palacio was only a “useful fool” and that the Pérez brothers “Don’t even know El Universo, they just receive the profits.” In June, the National Assembly debated a bill for an Integral Penal Code proposed by the Executive Branch. The Justice Commission raised the disappearance of the offense of libel, even that done against the authority, but created the figure of political harassment with punishment of one to three months in prison and a fine of the equivalent of 20 to 50 basic wages. The bill was approved on first reading by the National Assembly, the second hearing is still pending. On June 18, journalist Jaime Cedillo was notified of the shutdown of his program “Libertad de expression” (Freedom of Expression) that was broadcast daily on Nexo 99.7 radio in Cuenca, Azuay province. On June 26, photographer Yadira Romo, with the Carchi province government office’s communication department, reported that she had received a death threat from an unidentified person in a phone call after having taken photos of a verbal altercation between a reporter from the La Nación newspaper and another from the official paper El Ciudadano. On June 28 the National Communication Ministry discredited, in the official newspaper El Ciudadano, the National Union of Journalists, calling it an opposition political player and mentioning that its executives have dual morality. This reaction was a response to an organization’s press release that expressed concern at the atmosphere of tension against the country’s journalists. On July 1, political activist Pablo Guerrero Martínez managed to get the Czech Republic to grant him “political exile” status. In Ecuador Guerrero and another 12 people are facing legal action for alleged terrorism in a lawsuit initiated by Public Prosecutor Gustavo Benítez. On the evening of September 30, 2010 a group of people had forced their way into the plant of Ecuador TV to give their version of the events, as that channel was the only one during almost the whole day that could broadcast the facts, as the government had declared “a state of emergency,” silencing the privately-owner channels. On July 1, Byron Baldeón, correspondent of the newspaper Extra, was murdered by unidentified assailants as he was arriving at his home in El Triunfo, Guayas province. He had been investigating a robbery of a container of television sets in May, and three police officers and two civilians have been arrested for that offense. On July 5, journalists working for government media were prevented from entering a press conference being given in Guayaquil by Congressman Galo Lara of the opposition Sociedad Patriótica party, who has been linked by the government to a murder. On July 12, the Constitutional Court lifted the precautionary measures that had held in suspense application of amendments to Articles 203 and 207 of the Organic Electoral Law. These articles establish prior censorship and restrictions on news reports during the electoral process. On July 19, the National Assembly was hastily called on to hold a second vote on the Communication Law, but without result because the government failed to obtain a majority. On July 20, the National Telecommunications Council put into effect a new regulation concerning subscribers and users of the country’s telecommunications services, one of whose articles, No. 29, says that those providing telecommunications services and those of value added should send to the Office of Telecommunications Superintendent information about the IP addresses assigned to their subscribers/clients-users. This many feel could be used as a way of identifying those who think differently than the government. On July 24, Guayas Public Prosecutor Antonio Gagliardo rejected the accusation of breach of public duty and ideological hypocrisy that the lawyers of the newspaper El Universo and its executives had brought before Judge Juan Paredes Fernández for having sentenced them to three years in prison and payment of $40 million in a controversial trial. Basically, the judge was accused of not himself having drafted the sentence but rather had received it from an extreme source in writing and then he entered it into his computer. In July, during the appointments to the new Court of Justice, three of the judges that ruled against El Universo and for President Correa were named as new Court justices. On July 29, El Comercio publicly apologized to President Rafael Correa after its report “Correa da su version del desfile Olímpico” (Correa Gives His Version of the Olympic Parade), posted on its Web site, was commented on by a citizen, Zenón Moreno, who described the President as “marica degenerado” (degenerate gay) and who had thought of going to London “to get the gold medal in homosexuality.” El Comercio acknowledged that its filters had failed, because its policy is not to allow insults. On August 10, 45 Web sites of state institutions, political parties and people associated with the government were hacked, supposedly by the activist group Anonymous, which announced this action on the day on which President Correa was presenting his report to the nation. One of the Web sites attacked was the blog of Communication Secretary Fernando Alvarado. On August 16, the federal government granted political asylum to the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, after coming to the conclusion that he is being politically persecuted and runs the risk of not having the assurance of being given a fair trial in Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual charges. In its argumentation the government stressed its being an ally of free speech. On August 17, the United States immigration office granted political asylum to Emilio Palacio. This came six months after Palacio requested it. On August 20, the Loja Provincial Associate Judges Tribunal sentenced to five years in prison journalist Freddy Aponte after upholding, in writing, the conviction of the lower court issued on August 9, 2011. He was accused of fraudulent insolvency because he had failed to an indemnity amounting to $54,633 in a libel suit brought by Bolívar Castilla, former mayor of Loja. On August 22, President Correa, on his Twitter account, asked the National Intelligence Department to investigate a tweeter that had sent him a message in which he was called “immoral, thief, myth maker” and was accused of wanted to take control of Congress. Correa asked the department to take legal action. The tweeter closed his account after this. On August 25, President Correa ordered Ecuador’s diplomatic missions not to allow “lies and misrepresentations” by the press concerning what happens in Ecuador and limitations of freedom of expression. In the same note he recommended to the Odebrecht company that it sue La Hora for “leaving out key information” and “misinforming citizens” in a journalistic investigation into that company’s contracts. On August 28, the Pichincha Provincial Court found Jaime Solózano, an executive of a casino company, guilty of contempt for having defamed Congressman Juan Carlos Casinelli and the brothers Vinicio and Fernando Alvarado, Secretaries of Public Administration and Communication, respectively. On September 2, news photographer Juan Antonio Serrano was murdered in Cuenca at the end of a meeting of friends and family members. Serrano was the brother of Interior Minister José Serrano. His work was more directed to artistic photography than to news coverage. On September 3, the National Police discovered the body of journalist Luis Ruiz, correspondent of the newspapers Extra and Expreso in Playas, Guayas province, killed with a shot to the head. There has been no indication that his death had anything to do with his work as a journalist. On September 23, journalist Alejandro Escudero with the weekly Independiente in Nueva Loja, in Ecuador’s Amazon region, was threatened by two people who burst into his office and wielded a gun. According to the formal complaint, the two told him “Don’t go putting your head where there is a bad smell.” On September 24, journalist Gonzalo Rosero, with radio station Democraci, reported that he was the victim of harassment, but did not specify to what investigation or news this was due. One of the forms of harassment has been being chased in his car through the streets of Quito. On September 25, journalist Franklin Morán, with radio station Telerradio in Guayaquil, was prohibited from entering a meeting of the President with news media because, according to what he was told, his questions could be uncomfortable for the head of state.