28 July 2014

IAPA warns Ecuador government is seeking to extend its censorship system to rest of Latin America

Miami (July 25, 2014)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned an attempt by the Ecuadorean government of President Rafael Correa to extend its policy of restrictions to freedom of the press and of expression to all the countries of Latin America. The strategy of the Ecuadorean government, one of the most repressive of press freedom in the world, was to submit a bill for a communication law to the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament being held today and tomorrow in Panama. The bill, similar to Ecuador’s Communication Law (“gag law”), was presented to the Municipal and Political Affairs Committee by Ecuadorean member of Congress Octavio Villacreses of the governing Alianza País (AP) party. The Ecuadorean initiative includes the description of information as a public service, attributing to the government the ability to censor content, impose fines, shut down media and penalize journalists. The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, hopes that “the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament does not approve this bill. If it does, it would be giving itself the power to turn its back on Latin Americans, condemning them to ostracism and allowing governments to be the ‘big brother’ in deciding what the people can express or give an opinion on.” “It would be inconsistent for there to be a ‘gag law’ like the Ecuadorean one at a general level,” added Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, “as the Latin American legislators would be distorting their mission and would turn obsolete the American Convention on Human Rights and all the principles on freedom of expression that cost decades to consolidate in our region.” He added, “Correa’s strategy is clear– having been condemned by all the free organizations promoting freedom of expression throughout the world and by the democratic governments of Latin America and other regions- it seeks to ‘legitimize’ his own reprehensible action which has the Ecuadorean people under the harsh rule of his absolute power, through an action backed by the other Latin American governments.” He went on to say that “as he was unable to destroy the Office of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and weaken the Organization of American States’ Commission he is now attempting this through other mechanisms. His will to impose censorship remains intact and it would seem nothing can stop it.” In the Committee, whose discussions are open for public debate, they will review whether the proposal for a fundamental social communication law be taken to the Parliament’s plenary general assembly for its approval, to later be sent to the member countries, which have sovereignty as to whether or not to adopt it. According to the Panama newspaper La Estrella, which had access to the Ecuadorean initiative, the document establishes that “social communication is a public service” and that such communication is “the exclusive competence of each government to regulate, supervise and evaluate the exercise of this right,” referring to freedom of expression. It also incorporates vague notions that news should be “truthful,” “timely” and transparent,” making the government and its administrators “judges” to rule on what is “truthful” and what is not, what is “timely” and what is not, and what is “transparent” and what is not. 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.