Miami (December 28, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed alarm over the escalation of organized crime violence in Ecuador, which aims to silence the press, as revealed in conversations disseminated by the General Prosecutor's Office (FGE). The organization urged authorities to take urgent measures to stop attacks against journalists and media outlets in the country.
According to conversations revealed by the FGE, the fugitive Ecuadorian businessman Xavier Jordán and the lawyer Helive Angulo – now in preventive detention – had conversations in 2022 with the drug trafficker Leandro Norero, alias "El Patrón," who was in prison, as reported by local press. In these conversations, Norero, who was murdered inside the Latacunga prison in October 2022, expressed discomfort with press coverage, according to reports. The discussions involved plans to follow through with "intimidating" journalists from the Expreso newspaper and the Ecuavisa and Teleamazonas channels.
IAPA President Roberto Rock said, "The revelation of threats against journalists and media highlights the dangers to journalism in Ecuador by organized crime." Rock, director of La Silla Rota in Mexico, urged authorities to "take urgent measures to curb the growing insecurity and actions of organized crime against journalists and media covering sensitive topics."
According to local media, the messages are part of the investigations into the "Metastasis" case by the FGE, which uncovered an alleged infiltration and network of drug trafficking in the judicial, police, and prison systems, allegedly led by the Norero, as mentioned above.
The messages revealed that Angulo, the lawyer for the murdered drug trafficker, would have provided information to him about the movements, inner circle, residence, and photos of a journalist in the city of Manta, in the province of Manabí. Angulo would have also proposed to Norero the kidnapping of journalist Gerardo Delgado Olmedo, who was murdered in Manta on August 10, 2022.
According to Fundamedios, throughout the year, Jordán has initiated legal actions against various Ecuadorian media, including the Expreso and El Universo newspapers, accusing them of moral damage.
Carlos Jornet, President of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information at La Voz del Interior in Argentina, added that "the worrying advance of criminal groups worsens the climate of insecurity and constitutes a threat to press freedom and democracy. Authorities must implement protection mechanisms to ensure journalists and media can work without fear of reprisals."
Between January and December 2023, there were 30 death threats, and nine journalists were forced to leave the country due to threats to their lives because of their journalistic work, according to data from the Fundación Periodistas Sin Cadenas (FPSC).
Rock and Jornet expressed that "in addition to Ecuador, other countries in the region, such as Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti, and Paraguay, are experiencing an increase in organized crime and drug trafficking, with the press and journalists as targets of their attacks."
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.