Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

During this period, violence against media and journalists intensified, mainly due to the actions of organized crime gangs. The assault on a television channel, whose attackers broadcasted the kidnapping of the staff live, and the departure from the country of journalists who were threatened with death demonstrate the current risks of journalism.

Aggressions against reporters by members of the Police or the Armed Forces and the public administration also intensified through verbal and physical attacks in the context of the state of emergency declared by the national government.

In November, several journalists reported the aggression to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Among the complaints, the journalists from the newspaper El Comercio who were murdered in 2018 in the Mataje region, a case still unpunished, were remembered.

Various organizations defending press and expression freedoms reported that communicators have become direct targets of groups and leaders of organized crime. Fundamedios, the National Union of Journalists (UNP), the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors (Aedep), and the Journalists Without Chains Foundation (FPSC), among other organizations, demanded that the attacks and threats that forced several journalists to leave the country not remain unpunished.

Conversations about planned murders and attacks against journalists were cited, revealing the chats of drug trafficker Leandro Norero, alias Patrón, which are part of the investigations of the Metastasis case. Norero's communications with his alleged henchmen exposed the risk communication workers face.

One of the first revelations of the Metastasis case was that journalist Gerardo Delgado, from the digital media Ola Manta TV, was murdered on August 10, 2022, "by mistake" because the real target was someone else. It was known from a conversation between Norero and one of his
lawyers and trusted person, Helive A., alias Estimado, who is now in preventive detention. They spoke casually about following journalist Patricio Anchundia because he supposedly had a video that compromised a member of the criminal group associated with Norero.

It was also revealed that Xavier Jordán, investigated for alleged irregularities in contracts with public hospitals, had asked Norero to end the life of Sara Ortiz, a journalist from the newspaper Expresso, pretending she was a victim of a robbery. Attacks against workers from Teleamazonas and Ecuavisa are also mentioned without specifying names.

Cristóbal Peñafiel, president of the UNP, mentioned that the Communication Law creates a mechanism for protecting workers and the media, but the regulation was delayed.

At the beginning of the year, Fundamedios denounced that in 2023, 262 aggressions against the freedom of expression and press, the right to access information, and related rights were recorded, and organized crime is one of the main aggressors.

On January 9, criminals armed with firearms and explosives stormed the facilities of the television channels TC Televisión and Gamavisión in the city of Guayaquil. In a live broadcast, the criminals beat journalists. After several hours of tension, the National Police controlled the situation. Hours later, the government of Daniel Noboa declared a state of emergency throughout the country and declared criminal gangs as terrorist organizations.

Since the attack on the television channels, six journalists and media executives have been threatened by organized crime, and four media teams have been assaulted by criminals while covering stories.

There is also concern about the use of arbitrary violence by members of the security forces against communicators, and this action is justified in the decree of the state of emergency. Several journalists were assaulted and their work material confiscated by the National Police and the Armed Forces, as happened with journalists from the digital media Enfoquec de Machala, camera operators from the RTS channel of Guayaquil, and journalist Angelly Tinoco, from the community media Wambra, in Quito.

On October 26, two journalists from a radio station in the Amazon region were included in the protection program due to death threats from criminal groups.

On March 19, President Noboa signed the Chapultepec and Salta declarations, hemispheric documents from the SIP, regarding freedom of expression and press freedom. In front of a delegation from the SIP that visited the country, Noboa reaffirmed his commitment to free expression as a foundation of democracy and reiterated his willingness to ensure that Ecuadorian society is better informed.

Other relevant data in this period:

On October 18, a journalist left the country due to death threats received from organized crime groups.

On October 30, a flyer circulated in Manta, threatening crime reporters that they "would be silenced."

On November 10, journalist Melchor Cevallos reported aggression against him to the Prosecutor's Office. Cevallos works in Manabí.

On November 17, the prefect of Esmeraldas, Roberta Zambrano, accused journalist Sigifredo Quiñonez of being linked with bands belonging to organized crime. Quiñonez rejected the accusations.

On December 6, the Mil Hojas portal was digitally attacked after publishing an investigative report on Ecuador's debt process with China.

On December 13, journalist Segundo Cabrera reported that he was prevented from asking questions to the governor of Azuay, Milton Benítez. He also reported threats from the governor's security.

On December 17, journalist Karen Minda, from the digital media La Voz del Pueblo, reported threats against her life. She was demanded not to publish news about organized crime bands.

On December 18, a journalistic team from the Teleamazonas television channel was assaulted by armed criminals on a motorcycle in Guayaquil.

On December 27, unknown assailants attacked the vehicle of journalist Tomás Beltrán in Bolívar, Manabí. They sprayed his car with a corrosive chemical.

On January 24, a team from the digital media Red Ecuador was attacked in Guayaquil. Their cameras and cell phones were stolen.

On January 26, the National Police forced a journalist from the digital media Enfoquec, from Machala, to delete material from his phone about the detention of several people during a police operation.

On January 30, the mayor of Loja, Franco Quezada, accused journalists of being "vaccinators" and promoting verbal violence. In another episode, on February 20, he ordered that all kinds of information be denied to journalist Ilvar Jaramillo from the Ecotel network, whom he accused of discrediting him.

On February 3, the mayor of Guayaquil, Aquiles Álvarez, verbally attacked journalist Luis Antonio Ruiz from the digital media Wecanal, accusing him of launching a defamation campaign against his administration.

On February 9, the director of Radio Sucre, Vicente Arroba, reported that he was threatened with a pamphlet after publishing about an extortion campaign by organized crime in Guayaquil.

On February 21, Thalie Ponce, a journalist for the digital portal Indómita, reported being the victim of a cyberattack, suspecting it was due to a series of reports on violence against children.

On February 26th, a Popular Consultation was called under the Democracy Code, a law that restricts freedom of expression because promoters of the "Yes" or the "No" cannot freely advertise in the media. The law also prohibits media companies from selling advertising to promoters of the "Yes" and the "No," and there are also restrictions on selling to public institutions during the electoral process.

That same day, military personnel forced camera operators from the RTS channel to delete images of a traffic accident that occurred in Guayaquil by beating them.

On March 11, a journalist from Radio Novedades, from Cotopaxi, reported threats for speaking about the activities of the Governorship of that province.

On March 21, an official from the Prosecutor's Office ordered the public force to seize and erase the material of journalist Iván Velesaca from Cuenca after covering the transfer of the Vice President of the Republic's son to a maximum-security prison.

On March 27, during a protest march near the Ministry of the Environment, journalist Angelly Tinoco, from the community media Wambra, was assaulted with pepper spray by the police.