Freedom of expression organizations call on Ecuadoran president to stop attacking the press

Press freedom organizations and journalist unions have united to express their concern for the future of press freedom in Ecuador because of the tension between the government and the media, which has intensified in recent months after lawsuits President Rafael Correa has filed against reporters and media owners.

Most recently, the newspaper El Universo, which has suffered the brunt of Correa's attacks, on June 2 publicly announced on its website that despite the campaign against it, the newspaper would not be silenced. "EL UNIVERSO will not be quiet." The only way to silence us is "to destoy us," the newspaper said after new accusations against the daily that involve its directors in supposed acts of corruption.

The newspaper El Comercio in Quito reported that so far in 2011, Corea's administration has received six letters and various public statements from journalist organizations, calling for an end to the hostilities against the press.

The president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Gonzalo Marroquín, said Correa's "offensive style" of confronting the press with intimidation and threats is part of an "ulterior motive" so that the media will self-censor themselves.

The network of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) urged Ecuador to stop the "attacks and prosecutions" against the media. In a letter to Correa that was disseminated in the 16th General Assembly of IFEX in Beirut, Lebanon, 33 freedom of expression organizations said Ecuador had become one of the most aggressive countries against the media and journalists in Latin America, with 151 aggressions reported in 2010 and 75 so far in 2011.

During his administration, Correa has closed radio stations and personally come out against some journalists and media outlets, at the same time he has pushed forward legal reforms to regulate the press.

The Ecuadoran Association of Newspaper Editors (AEDEP in Spanish) asked the government to rectify the "political intolerance" against independent media. In recent weeks, organizations like IAPA, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have called on Correa to withdraw the lawsuits against reporters.

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.