Just as an Ecuadoran appeals court was upholding a criminal libel conviction -- brought by President Rafael Correa -- against the newspaper El Universo, Correa was raging against the press during his speech at the World Leaders Forum at Columbia University in New York.
In Correa's speech, ironically titled "Vulnerable Societies: Media and Democracy in Latin America" given that his administration has routinely sued and attacked the news media, the Ecuadoran president accused journalists of lying, saying the press has a "lack of love for the truth," according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Such anti-press rhetoric is nothing new for Correa, who in the past has referred to journalists as "ink assassins."
CPJ said that Correa's speech revealed his deep "disdain" for the press, explaining that his "main argument seemed to be based on his belief that by reporting critically on government affairs the media was inserting itself as a 'political actor,' and was trying to 'replace the rule of law with the rule of opinion.'" As he said during his speech, "United States is a very interesting country. ... You can insult the president and nothing happens, but if you mistreat your dog, you go to jail," CPJ reported.
According to Reuters, Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University (which administers the Pulitzer Prize, the top award in U.S. journalism) and a legal expert on freedom of speech, said, “President Correa has also endured widespread criticism for his treatment of Ecuador’s print and broadcast media and for policies antagonistic to freedom of speech and press, it is said."
Bollinger added that “Students of the jurisprudence of free expression will recognize Ecuador’s laws as another form of seditious libel. Such laws which make criticisms of government officials a crime, typically have been adopted by emerging democracies or other societies seeking to extinguish threats to a fragile political structure...The impulse to forbid government criticism has always later been understood to be an epic abdication of our society’s pledge to live by reason, to confront dissent with courage and to be temperate with dealing with misbehavior."
Below, see the first of four videos of Correa's speech: