02 October 2015


The right to resist, established in Article 98 of the Constitution, has become the ideal mechanism under which news media can continue fighting for true freedom of expression in the country. The newspapers La Hora, Expreso and El Universo had recourse to the right to resist over the application of procedures that coming from the Communication Superintendency (Supercom) have the objective of silencing the press. The most visible case occurred with the publication of a press release from the Ecuadorean Association of Newspaper Publishers (AEDEP) about the “lack of legal defense in the face of the Communication Law,” in which it is analyzed how the application of that law has led to the imposition of prior censorship. The control body called for a response to that press release in which the media has had no intervention. The refusal to publish the response led to a sanction being applied to La Hora and Expreso, they being required to raise the right to resistance, arguing that sanctions cannot be received from the body that presents the complaint, handles the case and establishes disciplinary action at the same time. La Hora has declared itself on three occasions to be “in resistance” and El Universo in June after receiving a sanction from Supercom for refusing to publish a response from the Communication Department (Secom) as a news item concerning a matter related to the Ecuadorean Social Security Institute, despite the fact that the newspaper had already published a response in this regard. El Universo felt that the process did not have conditions of equality given that the complainant was Secom, “which is administratively and financially part of the Ecuadorean Presidency” and the judge (Supercom) is named in a list presented by the President of Ecuador, that is to say the complainant and the judge are of the same origin.” President Rafael Correa declared that he was sorry for having allowed that right to be included in the Constitution. Secom initiated a process of dissolution of the organization Fundamedios for having disseminated and promoted contents of independent opinion blogs Estadodepropaganda.com and SentidoComunEcuador.com of journalists Roberto Aguilar and José Hernández. The origin of the attack, said César Ricaurte, the head of Fundamedios, was the monitoring of attacks being waged by that organization and which have amounted in the last eight years to 1,304 against journalists. Fundamedios also had recourse to the right to resistance and in response to the request of the ombudsman that the dissolution of the NGO be suspended, Communication Secretary Fernando Alvarado accepted the petition and notified that the dissolution had been archived, but under caution. Secom in this period applied 20 sanctions against the printed press (50%), followed by television channels (30%) and radio stations (20%). The sanctions have two aspects – imposing the right of reply for privately-owned media to print the official version of the matter and a fine for non-compliance with the articles set forth in the Communication Law. In this dispute the Saturday presidential hookups have as their objective discrediting news items that do not please the government. The criticism ha focused on items appearing in print media, in television reports and radio opinion pieces. Five journalists of publlcly- and privately-owned media were verbally and physically attacked – Alex Méndez, César Tacuri, Abraham Verduga, Guadalupe Ayovi and Christian Zurita during anti-government protests held in August. In addition journalists Jeanette Hinostroza and Carlos Vera were threatened with cybernetic hacking or attack. Journalists questioned by the government during these last seven months have been: Martín Pallares, Vicente Ordoñez, Tania Tinoco, Alfredo Pinoargote, Alfonso Espinoza de los Monterios, Jorge Ortiz, César Ricaurte, Diego Oquendo and Manuela Picq. Among the programs that were aired are the radio one hosted by former member of Congress Marcelo Dotti, the comic program “Vivos” and the blog “desde mi tranquera” (from my gate) of journalist Martín Pallares who stopped working at the newspaper El Comercio. Other relevant events in this period: On March 14 in President Correa’s hookup number 415 he criticized several publications by El Universo – the cartoon by Xavier Bonilla, Bonil, published on March 7 that referred to the salaries of members of Congress and the video placed on the newspaper’s Web site about protests in Azuay province. The president was annoyed that the newspaper did not publish anything about attacks upon police officers. On another matter Correa accused La Hora of being a rag and ordered Secom, using the Communication Organic Law, to require the newspaper to rectify a news item about disappeared persons which in his judgment is a matter that is being politicized. On March 18, the Supreintendency of Information and Communication (SUPERCOM) assessed a fine of $1,770 on La Hora newspaper for failing to identify and classify with the letter “O” (for “opinion”) a paid item that appeared on March 8, 2015, titled “Carta abierta para el tira insultos de los sábados,” which was written and paid for by David Rosero, a member of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Oversight. La Hora has classified the item with the letter “P” (for “publicidad,” or advertising). According to the control body the newspaper expressly contravened the Communication Organic Law in its Article 60. For its part La Hora had recourse to the right to resistance enshrined in the Constitution and described the action as discriminatory. Information and Communication Superintendent Carlos Ochoa said that the news media outlet can only have recourse to the right to resistance when there have been exhausted “all stages of proceedings” and that the resolution should be appealed first before the Administrative Litigation Tribunal. Other international organizations like the Inter American Press Association also express their solidarity with La Hora. On March 23 Loja Mayor José Bolívar Castill Vivanco and that city’s Special Prosecutor, Álvaro Reyes Abarca, filed a formal complaint with Supercom against La Hora claiming the newspaper had not given sufficient coverage to rendering of accounts by the mayor made on January 23, 2015 and published by the paper on January 24 and February 25. On March 28 in his hookup number 417 President Correa criticized reports published by El Universo about violent clashes that had been occurring in the city of Riobamba when two marches, one in favor of and the other against the government, came together in the center of the city. In the same hookup Correa raised a question about El Universo’s cartoonist Bonil, who he called a frustrated pseudo politician for having drawn a cartoon about the sanction on La Hora and the marches in Riobamba. On April 4 in the segment on freedom of expression in hookup number 418 Correa criticized a report by Ecuavisa television channel on the eviction of 40 families on Trinitaria Island south of Guayaquil, and the op-ed article titled “What do you care about other people’s lives?” by Fernando Gutiérrez published on April 4 in the newspaper El Universo. Correa accused the print media Expreso, El Comercio and La Hora of not telling the truth about the national economy. He also accused Gonzalo Ruiz of radio station Quito of lying because he said his station was required to retransmit all the interviews that the president had given days before. On April 9 Supercom, through a legal process, fined Radio Fútbol FM of Quito $3,540 for broadcasting content that was inappropriate for its type of audience and the 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. timeslot. On April 10 former member of Congress Marcelo Dotti, a journalist and lawyer by profession, gave up the timeslot that he had used for 20 years on radio station Suceso under the name “La voz de la gente” (The Voice of the People). He said that his departure was due to a direct request  from Communication Secretary Alvarado. On April 11 in the presidential hookup broadcast by Vice President Jorge Glas also served to question media and journalists. He criticized the Bonil cartoon published in El Universo on April 5 about the statements of President Correa and the news item published in El Comercio concerning an alleged adjustment in the prices of the Coca Coda Sinclear hydroelectric company. The vice president used the occasion to berate radio reporter Gonzalo Rosero for having said that the company would not be producing 1,500 megawatts. The vice president presented a video that criticized several news items and editorials of El Comercio and La Hora which said that the price of foodstuffs would increase with the application of customs tariffs. On April 15 Supercom fined Radio Cobertura FM Rapcofma S.A. (Cobertura Vox FM 104.1) in Quito $3,540 for failure to comply with Article 65 of the Communication Organic Law for incorrect use of language in the program “La del perro” (About The Dog). On April 16 the online newspaper www.lanacion.com.ec of Guayaquil was the victim of a news shutdown that left it out of service for three days. On April 16 Supercom through a legal process fined Quito radio station La Otrea FM 91.3 for not broadcasting at least 20% of its programming with content of music produced, composed or performed in Ecuador. On April 19 El Universo was required to assign part of its front page and its center pages to publication of a reply by Economic Policy Minister Patricio Rivera on the orders of Secom. On April 21 Youtube dropped a video of the organization Usuarios Digitales after a copyright claim apparently made by the state-owned television channel ECTV concerning the use of an extract of statements made by President Correa during one of his Saturday hookups. On April 25 in the freedom of expression segment of hookup number 421 President Correa questioned an item published in El Universo about the purchase of state bonds by BIESS. He later criticized El Comercio and Ecuavisa, two of the media that  published items about the withdrawal of state contributions to the pension fund of the Ecuadorean Social Security Institute. On May 5 the media outlet confiscated by the government, Gama Tv, presented a report on the Communication Organic Law and press freedom. In the audiovisual piece there were criticized several privately-owned media (El Universo, El Comercio, Hoy, Ecuavisa, Expreso) and several journalists (Jorge Ortiz, Alfredo Pinoargote, César Ricaurte) and declared that they had stopped defending the principal ideals of freedom of expression. On May 18 Supercom fined the newspaper Extra $7,080 for publishing photos of an underage boy, son of French citizen Arianais A, on April 9, 2015. On May 23 in hookup number 425 Vice President Glas declared that information published by El Comercio about an adjustment of $606 million in the construction of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant was not true. Regarding the Supercom ruling against La Hora the vice president declared that the media do not have the power to decide what news are or are not of public interest. He later criticized an item published by the magazine Vistazo about the Licuado Monteverde Gas Terminal, which it called a “white elephant.” On June 3 Supercom ordered El Universo to publish “in a complete and integral manner, in the same space and section” a response requested by Communication Secretary Alvarado. On March 23 El Universo published items headlined “President provoked them, those accused respond” and “The accused deny ambushing.” On April 17 Secom sought right of reply with a graphic text headlined “President did not provoke us, police official says” and “There was no provocation by President Correa towards the demonstrators.” The newspaper published the response on April 18, but with other headlines. It argued that what the Communication Secretariat was seeking was an “editorial meddling that would go against the Ecuadorean Constitution and current laws.” On June 20 in his Saturday hookup President Correa accused La Hora of having published rumors about the closure of the night shift of Mejía College which had provoked student protests. He criticized the coverage by the independent media of protests by groups opposed to the government. On June 27 President Correa took advantage of hookup number 430 to deny to El Universo reports of the use of tear gas by police to break up opposition protests in Quito and cast doubt on the newspaper’s’ claim that the march called by Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot had 375,000 people taking part. He said that the newspaper was an accomplice of the mayor and harshly criticized an item on anti-Ecuadorean government protests in Argentina.  “Do not believe in that corrupt press,” he declared. Correa also cast doubt on a note published by El Comercio about family inheritance taxes, saying that the paper was seeking to confuse people. On July 11 in hookup number 432 President Correa presented a video to explain the steps being taken for a mild coup d’état, a theory of Gene Sharp. Along with the video there were shown several editions of El Comercio, El Universo, La Hora and Teleamozanas. Correa criticized El Universo and La Hora for having published the IAPA message to Pope Francis saying that there was no press freedom in his country. On July 22 Supercom ruled that there was media lynching of actor David Reinoso in the programs “De Boca en Boca” (Mouth to Mouth) broadcast June 1-5 on Tc Televisión. Supercom imposed “public apology by the person or persons who produced and aired this information and that there be published an apology in the denounced news media outlet.” On July 28 at a meeting of media in Guayaquil President Correa criticized a photo on the front page of El Universo of offices of the National Intelligence Secretariat. On July 29 Supercom fined the newspaper Extra $1,770 because the item “The paradise of sensuality opened its doors,” published on July 12 was erroneously classified. According to legal norms information should be as classified as informational (I), opinion (O), formative, educational, cultural (F), entertainment (E), sports (D) or advertising (P). On July 29 in the evening two devices containing pamphlets exploded outside the El Universo and El Telégrafo buildings in Guayaquil. According to the police report the bombs were home-made gunpowder ones and were attributed to a unit known as National Liberation Front. On August 7 the team of Ecuador TV was attacked in Zhud, Cañar province, while covering an indigenous march on Quito. Two reporters, Abraham Verduga and Guadalupe Ayoví with state-owned television Ecuador Tv, a photographer with confiscated television channel TC mi canal, CNPLUS cameraman Álex Méndez and a reporter with the newspaper El Telégrafo were also attacked by people opposed to the government as they were covering protest marches in Quito. On August 13 French-Brazilian journalist and university professor Manuela Picq was arrested along with her companion Carlos Pérez-Guartambel, president of Ecuarunari, during protests in Quito. In a video made public on Youtube one can see the moment at which the professor was arrested. After three days in detention the authorities revoked her visa and she had to leave the country. On September 18 she was denied a Mercosur visa. On August 17 journalist Martín Pallares stopped working at the newspaper El Comercio apparently because of personal comments he posted on his Twitter account. Pallares has been a journalist very critical of the Ecuadorean government. Press organizations questioned his departure, while the newspaper said that it was acting in compliance with internal rules. On August 23 Ecuavisa journalist Tomás Ciaffardi reported on his Facebook and Twitter accounts that a report about the Cotopaxi volcano to be shown on Ecuavisa’s “Visión 360” program was cancelled under terms of the state of emergency in effect in Ecuador. Ciaffardi explained that the television station sent the report for the approval of the authorities and on not receiving a reply from them decided to cancel its broadcast. On August 29 in hookup number 439 Correa criticized journalist Diego Oquendo for requesting that the hookups be suspended. The president said that if Oquendo shut down Radio Visión, which he called “an antennas thing,” he would suspend his televised reports. On September 7 the confiscated television channel Gamtv, its presenters Marcela Holguín Naranjo and Fernando Ampuero Trujillo and news director Enrique Sánchez Mendoza were reprimanded by Supercom for not having corroborated information broadcast on July 6 in the “Gamavisión” news program. This refers to two clandestine audio recordings that the channel broadcast in which it was speculated about an alleged bank holiday and the absorption of the state-owned Banco Pacífico bank by the Banco Bolivariano, which was regarded as false information. On September 8 Supercom fined Canela TV station $1,770 for non-compliance with the Communication Law for broadcasting violent content in the 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. timeslot on July 14 in the program “Pantalla Real” (Real Screen). On September 8 for the second time Supercom fined Radio Fútbol FM $3,540 for expressions and judgments that it said could distort the educational formation of boys, girls and teenagers and thus fail to comply with the law in effect. On September 11 Supercom fined Canal Uno S.A. television $1,770 for broadcasting violent content in the program “Faranduleros” (Swindlers) at an inappropriate time. Supercom issued a written warning to the newspaper Extra for failing to observe medical ethics established in Article 10 of the Communication Law. According to Supercom the newspaper gave morbose treatment to a page one report in which there were shown photos of a Guayaquil woman victim of violence with acid burns to the face. The newspaper’s lawyers explained that Extra published the photos at the request of the attacked woman’s father and with his authorization and denied being morbid in their publication. On September 21 Supercom issued a written warning to the program “Ecuador Tiene Talento” (Ecuador Has Talent) broadcast by Ecuavisa during the B timeslot of shared responsibility, due to a group known as “Las chicas miau” (The meow girls), whose participation ended with physical attacks among its members On September 23 Supercom issued a written warning to Cadena Ecuatoriana de Televisión C.A, Canal 10 CETV channel for failure to observe medical ethics in the program “De Boca en Boca” (Mouth To Mouth), it being mentioned that one should “avoid an unhealthy treatment of information about crimes, accidents, catastrophes or other similar events.”