Ecuador facing "press freedom crisis," says IPI

"Ecuador is in the midst of a press freedom crisis," International Press Institute (IPI) Deputy Director Anthony Mills said on Tuesday, Oct. 23, on the group's website. Mills' words were part of a press release announcing the final report of IPI's press freedom mission to the Andean country from May 7 to 11.

According to the report, private media are the target of attacks from President Rafael Correa's government. Correa's administration has used different tactics to quash media, including passing laws to weaken independent media and the systematic use of offensive language "designed to tarnish the reputations of critical journalists, publishers, and press freedom groups," said IPI's statement.

The "Anti-Monopoly Law" and reforms to the election law are among the most criticized by the report. IPI said that the new law restricts media's ability to raise capital while the reforms limit the information voters can access, reported the news agency EFE.

IPI also warned that critical investigative reporting could be curbed if the proposed communication bill and the new penal code pass, reported the newspaper El Comercio. The report also highlighted the use of "cadenas," official messages, which aim to silence or distort criticism of the government, as one of the conditions contributing to a "palpable sense of fear among both journalists and resigned editorial departments, which is already leading to self-censorship," the website said.

Since its visit in May and the recent publication of its report, IPI noted that the press environment has worsened in Ecuador. IPI listed the closure of at least nine television stations and regional radio broadcasters, a ban on government officials granting interviews to private media reporters, the withholding of state advertising funds from newspapers that criticized the decline of the press to support its dire assessment.

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.