IAPA expresses enthusiasm about new climate of press freedom in Ecuador

It weighs elimination of Supercom and the figure of "media lynching." It will remain vigilant concerning amendment of the Communication Organic Law.

It weighs elimination of Supercom and the figure of "media lynching." It will remain vigilant concerning amendment of the Communication Organic Law

MIAMI, Florida (May 25, 2018)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed "great enthusiasm" for the new climate of press freedom in Ecuador, as evidenced this week by a bill for amendment of the Communication Law that President Lenín Moreno sent to Congress, in which there would be eliminated norms that in the previous administration were used to prosecute, punish and silence media and journalists.

IAPA President Gustavo Mohme, accompanied by an international delegation and representatives of the Ecuadorean Association of Newspaper Editors and Publishers (AEDEP), met on Wednesday with President Moreno at the Carondelet Palace. Moreno justified his decision to amend the law saying that it had turned into a "punitive instrument" with which many abuses of the media were committed.

Mohme praised Moreno's "democratic vocation" and his having distanced his first year in office from the 10 years of government of former president Rafael Correa, explaining that a "free press will always serve to control those in power and contribute to democracy."

Mohme pondered whether it should be sought to eliminate the Superintendence of Information and Communication (Supercom), the executive arm of the official gag, do away with the figure of "media lynching" while Moreno had announced that he will request an advisory opinion to the Inter-American Human Rights Court on information as a "public service," a precept that is included in the Constitution and was the excuse for the gag law.

Mohme emphasized that those initiatives represent a "great advance and breaking point regarding press freedom." He added that "they are a great opportunity for freedom to be expanded by other countries that also need profound changes in favor of freedom" such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

The IAPA president clarified before Moreno that the IAPA does not share all that is expressed in the amendment nor in the law, but he understood that it was an advance following the "dark decade in which press freedom lived" during the Correa period. "We will be vigilant concerning the debates in Congress," he said, where there were already submitted 11 bills to amend the Communication Law.

Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, argued that the new bill does not fully respect the inter-American standards as it proposes, as it would leave within the penal area the offense of defamation, when it should be only in the civil area, a trend that is established in the majority of the countries of the Americas. He added that he also holds as unjustified the interference of the government in the matter of editorial contents and criteria of the media.

For his part AEDEP President Pedro Zambrano, editor of the Portoviejo, Manabí, newspaper El Diario, added that in addition there exist other laws and regulations in the Penal Code that limit freedom of the press, such as the figure of contempt.

President Moreno showed respect for the criticisms and asked that he be sent all the concerns so as to review them.

During the hearing, which lasted for more than one hour, President Moreno committed to sign the Declaration of Chapultepec in a coming act and he will consider the invitation to participate in the IAPA's General Assembly, which will begin on October 19 in Salta, Argentina.

Mohme closed his presentation expressing that there have existed many victims in the past 10 years, among them the Quito newspaper Hoy, which had to close down after years of financial persecution on the part of the government. He asked President Moreno to set mechanisms that would allow the return of the media outlet or, otherwise, allow it to come out of the bureaucratic limbo that is preventing the company from duly liquidating and compensating its workers.

In addition to Mohme, editor of the Peruvian newspaper La República, and Rock, editor of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota, the delegation was made up of María Elvira Domínguez, IAPA first vice president and editor of El País, Cali, Colombia; Edward Seaton, former IAPA president and director of Seaton Newspapers, Manhattan, Kansas, and Ricardo Trotti, IAPA executive director.

The delegation of local members of the IAPA and AEDEP, in addition to Zambrano, was composed of Carlos Pérez and César Pérez, editors of El Universo, Guayaquil; Gabriela Vivanco, from La Hora, Quito; Carlos Mantilla, editor of El Comercio, Quito; Nicanor Merchán, editor of El Mercurio, Cuenca; Galo Martínez, editor of Expreso, Guayaquil and Carlos Martínez of the same medium, and Francisco Rocha, executive director of AEDEP.

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 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.