Newspaper in Ecuador fined for not obeying order to rectify

By Samantha Badgen

The Information and Communication Superintendence, the government department responsible for regulation the media in Ecuador, decided on Tuesday March 25 to fine Diario Extra 10 percent of its average income for the past three months for failing to rectify headlines in two cases. ​

The fine is part of a sanction for the offense of "reoccurrence" – committing the same offense more than once in the same year – established in article 23 of the Communications Law, the controversial and restrictive law established in July 2013.

The newspaper was fined for its failure to issue a correction in two instances. Last November, Diario Extra failed to rectify two headlines relating to its coverage of an accident in which the rector of the Polytechnic School of Chimborazo died. In the second case, the newspaper didn’t rectify an article that cited a judicial sentence that hadn’t been executed yet.

The Superintendence said the newspaper didn’t heed any of its requests for rectification; however, Diario Extra’s defense argued in the hearing that they had in fact rectified the headlines and the fine was unjustified.

“This resolution is surprising because they’re fining us even though we’ve argued that we rectified the headlines,” Juan Yépez, general editor of Extra, told news agency AFP.

According to press freedom organization Fundamedios, Carlos Ochoa, head of the Superintendence, said in a press conference on March 26 that “Diario Extra has been publishing content that is offensive to human rights and the dignity of the people for a long time, and that is why yesterday we’ve decided to fine this media outlet.”

Ochoa added that there was a refusal to obey the resolutions on the part of the newspaper, and if the headlines had been rectified they wouldn’t have had to fine Diario Extra.

Yépez said the sanction was something they expected, said El Nuevo Herald.

“We’ve presented all the arguments against the supposed reoccurrence but we got nowhere,” he said.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) denounced the fine against the newspaper, saying “this fine under subjective criteria of one entity and a law that attacks press freedom, beyond being excessive, is more evidence that Rafael Correa’s government has created these tools as ways to condition private media with the goal of silencing public critics of his actions.”

This is not the Superintendence's first order for a correction under the country's media law. In February, the cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, also known as Bonil, had to rectify a cartoon that showed the search of a journalist’s home, after Ecuador’s president complained.

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.