A series of public spats between a journalists' union in Ecuador and the country's government continues a week after the United States ambassador participated in an event with journalists on World Press Freedom Day, Friday, May 3.
On Friday, May 10, after the National Journalists' Union (UNP in Spanish) asked the government to apologize and show proof to back up allegations made by President Rafael Correa last week, Secretary of Communications Fernando Alvarado, defended the president's comments, saying, "The president's insinuation, far from being an insult, is a valid assumption in the content of freedom of speech."
The confrontation started when the UNP, in celebration of May 3, conducted a "civil event" where journalists and citizens wrote sentences on a huge canvas related to freedom of expression in the country. U.S. Ambassador Adam Namm attended the event and signed the canvas with a quote from Thomas Jefferson, "The only security of all is in a free press."
During a national announcement on Saturday, May 4, Correa criticized the ambassador's presence. "How bold of him to go there, surely he's paying them," Correa said. "But it's good that the Ecuadorian people see them together. The clowns and the journalist clowns too, and the ambassador who is backing them all. We know whom he's with and who these people are with. Everyone should see, should know what powers we're up against."
"President Correa should show the proof behind this insinuation, which UNP sees as an insult," the organization wrote in its letter. "The president's accusation is part of a systematic smear campaign against the press and the media through 'cadenas nacionales' (mandatory broadcasts of government information) to push the approval of a communications law that restricts the rights of those who think differently than the government and dare to express themselves."
In response to the journalists' organization, the secretary of Communications said that he shares the president's suspicions about a possible link between the union and the U.S. Embassy and other "powers against the citizen revolution." He added that it would be interesting if UNP conducted an audit of its financials and made its accounts "transparent."
In April 2011, the government of Ecuador expelled the U.S. ambassador, declaring her persona non grata after he referenced supposed police corruption in a State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. Ambassador Namm assumed the post in May 2012.
Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.