Ecuador sanctions journalist and media outlet for “media lynching” for publishing investigative report

For repeatedly questioning the purchase of medication by the Ecuadorian government, journalist Janet Hinostroza, and the broadcaster Teleamazonas in which she hosts an interview program, were sanctioned on Aug. 8 by the Superintendency of Information and Communication (Supercom) of Ecuador, according to Fundamedios, a freedom of expression organization.

Fundamedios reported that on the Aug. 6 broadcast of the program through which President Rafael Correa addresses Ecuadorian citizens, the leader ordered Hinostroza and Teleamazonas to be reprimanded because of their reports about the government’s purchase of medications. He accused them of “media lynching” against the National Public Contracting Service (Sercop), and of thus violating article 26 of the Organic Law of Communications (LOC, for its initials in Spanish), Fundamedios explained.

Additionally, Hinostroza, who hosts the programs “Desayunos de 24 Horas” (“24-Hour Breakfasts”) and “Noticiero 24 Horas” (“24 Hour Newscast”) on Teleamazonas, individually received another sanction from Supercom. The entity also reprimanded her for violating part of article 10 of the LOC for allegedly spreading in her programs “facts that were not proven or contextualized.”

In conversation with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Hinostroza said that she sought all information she could about the bidding process for medicines called by the state, including the position of authorities on the matter.

“All of this process and its absurd conclusion demonstrate that in Ecuador, you can’t do investigative journalism, that the Communications Law is made to silence journalists who make the authorities uncomfortable,” said Hinostroza, who won the International Press Freedom Award from CPJ in 2013.

Teleamazonas announced that they will demand the nullification of Supercom’s decision before the courts.

According to Supercom, Teleamazonas and Hinostroza had to make a public apology and make a correction within 72 hours – a term already expired – after receiving the sanction. They would have to do it at the same time and space, and “as many times as the damaging information was broadcasted.”

CPJ urged Supercom, the official regulatory entity of the media, to “rescind all measures against the broadcaster Teleamazonas and journalist Janet Hinostroza.”

Correa accused Hinostroza of being “dishonest, a bad journalist and of taking sides in favor of her interests,” according to Fundamedios. He also said that certain journalists and channels “want to abuse their power and destroy institutions and defend certain corporate interests.”

Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), expressed concerned about the actions taken by Ecuadorian institutions.

“This is an outrageous privilege in the best monarchic style,” Paolillo said, “it demonstrates not only intolerance to criticisms, but also the dependence of state bodies and the Judicial Branch on the interests of the President himself.”

Also, the National Union of Ecuadorian Journalists called the sanction a form of harassment “that aims to prevent investigative journalism addressing highly sensitive issues of public interest,” reported EFE.

Since 2013, the Ecuadorian communications law has limited investigative reporting and shaped coverage of news about authorities, according to a CPJ investigation.

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.

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