Ecuador's president proposes freedom of expression should be a function of the State

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, proposed increasing "democratic controls" over information to transition freedom of expression into a "function of the State" during a press conference on Monday, Nov. 19, according to the news agency EFE.

"If freedom of expression is as important as you all say it is, when it suits you it's very important, so it should be a function of the State with democratic legitimacy, democratic controls, not businesses doing whatever they please," Correa said.

The president argued that given the important of freedom of expression to humanity people should ask themselves, "how is it in the hands of private, for-profit media," which he has called the "corrupt press," reported the website El Tribuno.

"If they have to take this right away from us to improve their profitability, they will do it," Correa explained, accusing private media of valuing their economic interests over journalistic ethics, added the website.

The statements followed his appearance at the 22nd Ibero-American Summit where, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El País, he made what he called a "risky" proposition, asking, "if information is a right, the base of fundamental freedoms and freedom of expression, why could it not be a function of the State, like justice?"

The president said that public media could grow into a new model of communication, in which information would be regulated, reported the website El Telégrafo. Correa went on to say that if information were in the hands of the state, it would prevent businesses from making money off the news and end organizations like the Inter American Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists, which he has accused of "giving out awards to go unpunished and do whatever they want," added the website.

For César Ricaurte, director of the Ecuadorian NGO Fundamedios, State control of information "does not guarantee greater pluralism, on the contrary, it guarantees that there will be an official truth," reported EFE.

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.