Ecuadoran president accuses media observation group of receiving U.S. funding

Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa is questioning the independence of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, accusing them of receiving funding from the U.S. international development agency, USAID. Among the organizations Correa is accusing are the Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of Media (FUNDAMEDIOS in Spanish) and the movement Citizen Participation, both of which have been critical of the president's communications policies, reported the newspaper Opinión.

On Saturday, June 25, during his weekly radio program, the president announced his intention to establish a law regulating the functioning and accountability of NGOs in Ecuador. He also claimed many NGOs do not report their income or fulfill the tasks for which they were created, instead deciding to engage in making policy for the country, according to the state-run newspaper El Ciudadano.

"There are NGOs from the extreme right, looking to replace governments, impose their own policies, and if they can't do that, destabilize the ruling governments," Correa said, as quoted by SDPnoticias.

In a statement, FUNDAMEDIOS said it had not received any funding from the United States, although the group admitted to an "indirect relationship" with USAID through participation in a coalition of civil society organizations, reported El Comercio.

FUNDAMEDIOS also said the government is aware of the organization's donors and the amounts of funding received, emphasizing the group has strictly complied with government regulations, according to El Universo.

"The president can think what he wants about FUNDAMEDIOS, however it is necessary to remember that the Ecuadoran state is obligated to protect our work as human rights defenders, and as part of this obligation, to refrain from spreading a stigmatizing and discrediting discourse about our work,” said FUNDAMEDIOS director César Ricaurte in a statement.

Since he was elected, Correa has taken the offensive against the media, using unflattering epithets and accusing the press of lying and deceiving. Recently, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) urged Correa to stop attacking the press.

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.