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Correa withdraws government advertising for private media

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - Tuesday, 31 July 2012 - On 28 July 2012, President Rafael Correa announced the government will withdraw all official advertising from media he classifies as "mercantilist", among them the newspapers Hoy, El Comercio, El Universo, La Hora and TV stations Teleamazonas and Ecuavisa. He made this announcement in the segment titled “Freedom of expression now belongs to everyone”, of his Saturday Enlace Ciudadano No.282 broadcasted from Ibarra, Imbabura.

The chief of state ordered Fernando Alvarado, National Communication Secretary, to withdraw advertising from several media outlets. “From now on you will no longer place official advertising on the mercantilist media, because there is no reason why we, with the money of all Ecuadorians, should benefit businesses that belong to six families in this country.(...) From now on, no official advertising in the mercantilist media, to see if they engage in communication as a vocation or a business,” stated the president.

On 16 June, Correa had challenged the private media to issue letters rejecting official advertising. He pointed out that he has received no replies.

The order issued by President Correa this weekend makes clear the existence of a system of awards and punishments for the media related to the placement of official advertising. In regard to this, in 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) approved the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression because of the need to have a legal framework that would regulate the effective protection of freedom of expression in the continent. Principle 13 of this international declaration states:

"(...) the arbitrary and discriminatory placement of official advertising and government loans (...) with the intent to put pressure on and punish or reward and provide privileges to social communicators and communications media because of the opinions they express threaten freedom of expression, and must be explicitly prohibited by law. The means of communication have the right to carry out their role in an independent manner. Direct or indirect pressures exerted upon journalists or other social communicators to stifle the dissemination of information are incompatible with freedom of expression."

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