Question of Freedom of the Press Raised in Ecuador

On July 21, three newspaper executives and a former columnist were sentenced to three years in jail based on libel charges against president Rafael Correa. In addition, the court charged El Universo, the newspaper the convicted individuals worked for, USD 40 million for defamation. The source of the convictions was an article referring to Correa as “the dictator” in February. Also included in the article were assertions that Correa was guilty of committing many human rights abuses.

A backlash erupted after the court’s decision; director of the International Press Institute, Alison McKenzie, asserted on behalf of a number of watchdog organizations fighting for freedom of the press, that “we are outraged by the court’s sentence… The excessive nature of yesterday’s sentence demonstrates the continuing need in Latin America and around the world to eliminate archaic—and illegitimate—criminal defamation laws.”

Source: All Latino

Freedom of the press is perhaps one of the most important rights contributing to a modern sovereign nation. To threaten or limit this freedom is, in essence, to suffocate access to information. Without this inherent liberty, citizens are rendered unable to effectively participate in politics. Over the past decade, the President has had a rock relationship with media organizations; his track record indicates his interference with media discretion reveals a consistent pattern of behavior. Correa’s decision to fundamentally alter the ability of the press to convey any and all truthful information through legal process will no doubt be reflected in approval ratings, should Ecuadorians be aware of the importance of such rights.

One thought on “Question of Freedom of the Press Raised in Ecuador

  • July 31, 2011 at 8:40 pm
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    If the press were free, that is, not owned by powerful men with their own self-serving agenda, then taking any action against the press would be unthinkable for me as a former Boston Globe columnist (1981-2000). However, if the press lies as a means of advancing its owners interests, and if large media corporations with similar agendas own most of the mainstream media, the only avenue for an elected official under attack is to bring libel charges. If in fact Correa is not a dictator, and is not guilty of human rights violations which can be listed and confirmed, then his only option is to fight back. Freedom of the press is an idea from a time when people feared that government might try to control the press. We have no policies for when a few wealthy individuals control the global media, i.e. Rupert Murdoch, without any limitations. As the New York Times, which owns the Globe said, at the time of a law suit by the Freelancers Association, "We are a for-profit organization with no public service component."

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