By Tatiana Sell
La Plata University (UNLP in Spanish) in Argentina honored Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa with a freedom of expression award. The prize was previously awarded to President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2011 and 2008, respectively.
The UNLP's Department of Journalism and Communications awarded Correa the "Rodolfo Walsh" prized on Tuesday, Dec. 4. During the ceremony, Correa criticized media organizations in Ecuador, calling them "powers without democratic legitimacy" and declared, "since the invention of the press, press freedom has been nothing more than the will of the publication's owner," reported Infobae.
When asked to explain their decision to honor Correa with the prize, the UNLP board of directors said that the president is "one of the current models in the battle against the hegemonic will that tries to restrict the word, and through it, individuals and social subjects."
"It turns out there is such a lack of freedom of expression in Ecuador that one of the most important universities in Latin America awards the president a prize for the struggle to have true freedom of expression and democratization of the media," Correa said last week, reported the website Terra.
Univisión Noticias cited the judicial dispute Correa instigated against the newspaper El Universo, which almost resulted in the imprisonment of three of the publication's employees and a $40 million fine. Click here to see a chronology of the case brought against El Universo (in Spanish).
During the last two months, Correa has been the focus of other tensions with the press, including the case of a blogger arrested for using the president's information to expose vulnerability in government databases; Correa's comments suggesting that freedom of expression should be a function of the State; a report published by the International Press Institute claimed Ecuador faces a press freedom crisis; and a television journalist who was forced to resign from her station after receiving threats, according to Clases de Periodismo.
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.