In the article “Ecuador Confirma Que Assange Seguirá Asilado en su Embajada en Londres,” the author discusses President Rafael Correa’s statement that Ecuador will continue to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at their embassy in London to protect his freedom of speech rights.
However, the article does not mention the recently passed law in Ecuador, “Ley Orgánica de Comunicación,” which intends to censor radio and television by forming a regulatory council with the capacity to affect the media. The council will have the effect of restricting the spread of any information considered violent, sexually explicit, or discriminatory. According to the law, 34 percent of frequency and license ownership for radio and television will be eligible for possession by the civic sector (also called the community sector). The private sector will only receive 33 percent, which represents a major cut back from the 85.5 percent to which it originally had access. Another 33 percent will also be granted to the public sector, overall granting additional media ownership to the government. President Correa’s decision to fight for Assange’s “freedom of expression,” therefore, seems to introduce an ironic element given that this new communication measure will overall have the effect of limiting the private press’ visibility in Ecuador.
Given Correa’s turbulent past with the media, it is easy to understand why some Ecuadorians could be worried about the restrictions on their traditional news sources. Last February, for example, Correa sued the country’s newspaper El Universo for defamation. In its ruling, Ecuador’s National Court of Justice granted Correa $40 million USD and sentenced the author of an article titled, “No More Lies,” in which Correa was described as a “dictator,” to three years of imprisonment. After pressure from international organizations like the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Correa cancelled financial fines owed to him, saying he “forgives, but does not forget.”
In May, Correa’s government made a public claim to the daily Hoy for allegedly “misquoting and distorting his words” in an article headlined “Correa Califica de Novelería el Matrimonio Homosexual,” (Correa Classifies Same-Sex Marriage as a Fantasy). However, instead of taking legal action, the Secretary of Communication of the state released a detailed script of the speech’s audio, showing the inconsistencies between the president’s words and what was published in the daily. Shortly after, Hoy issued an apology in a published statement.
Consequently, the story of media oppression in Ecuador, exemplified in the latest communication law, is not as one-sided as the mainstream media portrays it. Although historically Correa has not seen eye to eye with many Ecuadorian news sources, he has recently been willing to take a more pleasant attitude towards them. His latest decision to protect Assange’s journalistic rights is an example of that and is a step towards establishing a democratic image to the international community.
Angelika Romero, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
In response to the El País article: “Ecuador Confirma Que Assange Seguira Asilado en su Embajada en Londres”
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