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UPDATE: Brazilian journalist voluntarily leaves Quito after having visa revoked

Update (August 24, 2015): From the Quito International Airport on August 21, Brazilian journalist Manuela Picq announced she had decided to leave Ecuador due to the "legal limbo" in which she found herself after the Ecuadoran courts failed to reactivate her visa, reported newspaper El Universo.

Picq had requested a protective action to redress her constitutional rights after she was detained during public demonstrations on 14 August and her visa later was revoked. However, the action was denied, which is why the journalist decided to leave the country and thereby preserve her legal security and physical integrity, Fundamedios reported.

"The state has still not informed me of the crime I committed [...] I heard that my crime was political activity, to my knowledge there is no crime of opinion in the Ecuadorian Constitution [...] I know it is neither an emotional crime to love a political leader, "said Picq, who added that she intends to return to Ecuador by requesting a Mercosur visa from Brazil, Fundamedios added.

Original Report (August 18, 2015): Brazilian journalist Manuela Picq was arrested and had her visa cancelled by the Ecuadoran government after attending a protest in Quito on Friday, August 14, reported news portal G1. According to Picq, the Ecuadorian authorities did not tell her the reason for the visa cancellation and took her to a center for foreign people who are given an illegal immigration status.

After her arrest, Picq was in danger of being deported, but in a hearing held on Monday, August 17, the judge overseeing the case found that the charges brought by Ecuador were not enough for her expulsion, according to O Globo.

Picq participated in the march of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, which brought together thousands of people in Quito and ended in conflict with police. She was arrested when, according to local press reports, she tried to help her husband, Carlos Pérez Guartambel, leader of an indigenous organization opposed to the government and one of the main leaders of the protests. The Brazilian is a resident of Ecuador and taught at Universidade San Francisco de Quito.

"They are creating a criminal situation to get me out of the country. I feel kidnapped, everything is arbitrary and illegal, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming days. The process is not a legal process, it is a political process, political discrimination" said the Brazilian in an interview with journalist Cesar Ricaurte, of Rayuela.com radio.

The journalist writes articles for Al Jazeera and other independent newspapers. For local media, her detention would have been in retaliation to her husband, who has suffered threats of imprisonment from the government of Rafael Correa in recent months, according to BBC Brazil. The reason given by the authorities for the revocation of her visa was that she had a cultural exchange status and could not participate in political activities.

Hostility to journalists, the media and activists has strained Ecuador, and attacks on freedom of expression are becoming more frequent. The NGO Fundamedios, in its report “Victims of the Hostile Climate in Ecuador,” showed an increase in attacks on the media.

According to César Ricaurte, who works with Fundamedios, since the last IACHR hearing about the same subject (in March 2014), attacks and threats against journalists, media and citizens have increased dramatically: they have jumped 46 percent compared with 2013. He said his organization recorded 254 aggressions against the press during 2014. "And this trend isn’t stopping,” Ricaurte said. “Between January and February of 2015 alone, 46 new attacks against the press were reported.”

In its Assembly this year, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) criticized the excessive sanctions of the Superintendency of Information and Communication (Supercom), a surveillance body established by the Organic Law of Communication (LOC for its acronym in Spanish), known by the local media as a "gag rule".

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Correa is part of the group of Latin American presidents “do not hesitate to berate the news media and vilify journalism in their public addresses.”

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.

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