IAPA adds support for appeal against Ecuadors Communication Law
MIAMI, Florida (September 5, 2013)The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today publicly called on Ecuadors Constitutional Court to act on a claim of unconstitutionality submitted on Tuesday against the new Communication Organic Law by 60 Ecuadorean citizens, among them artists, former judges, authors, journalists, intellectuals and former legislators. It declared that the law restricts freedom of expression, putting in the governments hands, through agencies and staff appointed by the President, full control of the flow of information.
MIAMI, Florida (September 5, 2013)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today publicly called on Ecuador’s Constitutional Court to act on a claim of unconstitutionality submitted on Tuesday against the new Communication Organic Law by 60 Ecuadorean citizens, among them artists, former judges, authors, journalists, intellectuals and former legislators. It declared that the law “restricts freedom of expression, putting in the government’s hands, through agencies and staff appointed by the President, full control of the flow of information.” The first claim that the law is unconstitutional was presented to the Court on June 28 by Congressman Luis Fernando Torres. The law, which entered into force on June 25, transforms the right to communication into a public service that can be controlled by the government. The IAPA insisted that it establishes “a kidnap of information” on the part of the government, whose consequence will end in “self-censorship by the media out of fear of reprisals and punishment.” Current legislation enables the government to interfere in and impose content on the media; it reestablishes the compulsory license of journalists, a requirement that has been absolved in the majority of countries; it creates new press offenses such as “media lynching;” it prohibits media owners from engaging in other economic activities, and among other prerogatives contrary to international principles on freedom of expression, it creates government bodies and councils with powers to regulate and punish news media and journalists. In both rebuttals the claimants are requesting the Court for a public hearing and that it issue precautionary measures to immediately suspend the application of the law, due to matters of substance and form. It is believed the National Assembly has acted in disrespect to the legislative process and the Constitution, when it comes to the writing and editing of the law; and to the necessary parliamentary debate sessions. The two claims label the actions as “fraud” against the constitution, the definition of information as “a public service” and expose the interference of the government in the privately-owned media’s right to property. “There is no constitutional justification for turning privately-owned news media into providers of a public service, destroying the content of the right to freedom of information,” Torres argues. He adds, “The government is not in charge of providing the public service of communication, according to Article 314 of the Constitution. By virtue of that, it doesn’t have the authority by delegation to transfer to the privately-owned news media the provision of said public service.” The claim also puts emphasis on the discriminatory control and punishment that the new government agencies can impose to media content and the reader comment sections of the publications’ Web sites. It further stresses the legislative incongruity that exist between the instruction to media companies’ to have own codes of ethics and the imposition of “minimum standards” that must be included. The claim also describes as unconstitutional the fact that “prior censorship” is applied to privately-owned media, while this only corresponds to the censorship that governments can impose. Commenting on the claims Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said that his organization cannot stop supporting them in that they are consistent with the criticism that it has expressed on repeated occasions. “This law,” he said, “restricts freedom of expression, putting in the hands of the government, through agencies and staff designated by the President, full control over the flow of information.” Paolillo repeated the warning that the Communication Law “is the most serious setback for freedom of the press and of expression in the recent history of Latin America.” Among other actions taken by the IAPA, on June 19, together with other press organizations of the region, it requested the intervention and opinion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to make an analysis in light of legal rights and international standards on freedom of expression. For their part, the United Nations Office of Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have noted the great incompatibilities of the law with respect to current international treaties of which Ecuador is a signatory. As part of the Coordinating Committee of World Press Freedom Organizations the IAPA has also expressed in resolutions sent to the government of Ecuador that the law creates a “legal framework to impose restrictions and conditions on the work of the press,” providing the government with “wide discretion to impose punishment” and “silence critical voices.” The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.