Report to the 74th General Assembly
Oct 19 to 22
Salta, Argentina
President Lenín Moreno has initiated positive changes with regard to the press and freedom of expression, among them amendment of the Organic Communication Law that is currently being debated in the National Assembly. The amendment proposes the elimination of the Communication Superintendence (Supercom), an office that served to impose huge fines with the sole intention of intimidating and bankrupting independent media. It also seeks to eliminate the concept of media lynching and the role of communication as a public service. Already eliminated is the Communication Secretariat of the Presidency (SECOM), an institution that used former president Rafael Correa to attack media and citizens critical of the government.

On June 29 there were laid to rest the bodies of journalist Javier Ortega, news photographer Paúl Rivas and driver Efraín Segarra, members of a news team of the daily El Comercio murdered in April in Colombia by the Oliver Sinisterra front of the Farc guerrilla force.

Attacks between journalists and politicians continue. Two journalists were attacked in Belgium, where they went to cover the life style and investigative process that the Ecuadorean judiciary is maintaining against former president Correa for the kidnapping of Fernando Balda.

Correa filed a criminal lawsuit against journalist Ramiro Cueva in Belgian courts, claiming having been beaten and injured. Finally, on October 9 Cueva was convicted of threatening former president Correa and his daughter Anne Dominique in the town of Lovaina. The court of first instance in Bravante Valón, a province south of Brussels, found Cueva guilty of the crime of threatening. However, punishment was suspended for his not having a criminal record in that country.

For the same proceedings on the abduction of politician Balda, outside the National Court of Justice in Quito, journalists of Ecuavisa, CNN, La Posta and Gkillcity were attacked with sticks and stones.

Iván Rodríguez, correspondent of Teleamazonas and radio La voz del Tomebamba, received a death threat on his telephone. Sports reporter Gabriel Pacheco Reyes of Radio Águila was shot at by unidentified persons in the south of Guayaquil city.

The PlanV and 4pelagatos websites, both dedicated to investigative journalism, continued to be the target of cyber attacks and blocked for more than 18 hours. In another attack the website La Fuente of journalist Fernando Villavicencio remained off air for four days after publishing a report titled "Petrochina: The Route of Money," in which there was denounced a scheme of enrichment through the oil intermediation of businessmen linked to President Correa. For this reason the Attorney General's Office in September opened an investigation into him for using a false document of the Panama Papers.

Other relevant events during this period:

On April 13 President Moreno confirmed the murder of the El Comercio news team and announced a reward of $100,000 for providing information about Walter Arizala, a.k.a. 'Guacho', responsible for the kidnapping.

On May 18 former president Correa challenged La Posta website journalist Andersson Boscán after being questioned by him on his Twitter account about the money that the Ecuadorean government provides to pay for his personal safety.

On May 30 online investigative magazine Plan V was taken off air following an intense attack of denial of services, better known as DDoS.

On June 5 Marco Mauricio Villegas Terán, manager of the Macas hospital, sued journalist Wilson Cabrera, correspondent of television station Teleamazonas in Macas, for serious undesignated judgments of worth and information with the sole aim of discrediting him. He called for $20,000 in indemnity and daily public apologies for two months on Facebook.

On June 21 the website 4Pelagatos was taken off air following a cyber attack that disabled it for more than eight hours. The last published news were regarding the case of the kidnapping of Fernando Balda and the implication of the former president.

On July 5 news teams of government channel Ecuador TV, Teleamazonas and a community reporter of the Coordination of Popular and Educational Community Media of Ecuador (CORAPE) were victims of physical attacks and acts of harassment and intimidation during a march in favor of former president Correa.

On July 10 journalist Gustavo Núñez reported that he was the object of physical attacks by Juan Villamar Cevallos, mayor of Maná, while he was covering a session of the Municipal Council.

On July 17 for the third time Twitter suspended the account of Crudo Ecuador without giving an explanation nor sending an email with notification. Crudo Ecuador opened its fourth account but some days later Twitter limited its functioning for 12 hours and obliged it to remove a message regarding former president Correa.

On July 25 the Twitter accounts of journalist José Hernández, of the website 4Pelagatos, and cyber activist 'Shababaty' were blocked for having published about an incident in Belgium between former president Correa and the journalist.

On July 27 journalists of the online media La Posta, Luis Eduardo Vivanco and Andersson Boscán reported threats against them and their families to the Attorney General's Office after launching a money-raising campaign to go to Belgium in order to follow the footsteps of former president Correa.

On August 1 communication ceased being a public service. The Constitutional Court repealed a packet of amendments to the Magna Charta proposed in 2015.
On August 16 journalists Luis Vivanco and Andersson Boscán of the online website La Posta complained that they were the victims of being trailed and death threats from supporters of former president Correa on their arrival in Brussels.

On August 26 Carla Maldonado, a reporter with state newspaper El Telégrafo, reported being the victim of a series of insults placed on Facebook, apparently for having reported that in two terms Gabrela Rivadeneira of Alianza PAIS, heading the National Assembly, had 44 groups of brothers working in the legislature.

On September 21 Segundo Cabrera, a Radio Cuenca reporter, was the victim of physical attacks and prevented from making coverage by members of the Independent Alternative Social Movement (ASI) of Gualaceo, Azuay.

On October 2, the daily La Hora and El Universo received a notification from the State Comptroller's Office demanding payment of a fine imposed 18 months ago - while former President Correa was in office – during the second round of the elections won by current President Moreno. The penalty – imposed on April 20, 2017, was set after the publication of an article in the Argentine newspaper Página 12 discussing the financial situation of the opposition candidate - which the independent media did not comment on. As a result, SUPERCOM imposed a fine on the media that did not report on it – calling the information a matter of "public interest."

The condition that the information must be of "public interest" is still included in the draft Communication Law being debated in the National Assembly. Although the elimination of economic penalties is contemplated, the Council for the Regulation of Information would still have the power to regulate content.

On October 9, Ecuadorian journalist Ramiro Cueva – director of Ecotel Tv, was convicted by Belgian courts on charges of threatening former President Correa and his daughter Anne Dominique in the town of Louvain La Neuve – where Correa has been living since leaving the presidency. The first instance court of Bravante Wallón – a province south of Brussels – found Cueva guilty of the crime of threats. However, the sentence was suspended because Mr. Cueva did not have a criminal record in that country.

On October 19, SUPERCOM notified daily La Hora that it had moved to evaluate and accept a new denunciation – presented by a citizen on June 22, regarding a press release published by the regional edition of La Hora in the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas. The denunciation cites articles from both the Communication Law and its punitive Regulations.