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Call for investigation of Teleamazonas station; CONARTEL issues controversial resolution

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 12 May 2009, Antonio García, president of the Radio and Television National Council (CONARTEL), requested that the Telecommunications Superintendent open an investigation of Teleamazonas TV station to determine if the station should be penalised for broadcasting live on 8 May accusations made by a group of opposition politicians, who entered a data center where, according to them, results of the 26 April elections were being falsified.

The station sent reporters to the center after receiving information from the politicians who had gone there. Once inside they were told by representatives of the National Electoral Council that the location was a contingency center.

Reporters Luis Antonio Ruiz and Marlon Chica broadcasted the news live.

On 9 May, Teleamazonas received notification from the Guayas Provincial Electoral Board requesting a copy of the tape. The station refused to comply with the Board's petition because it cannot legally make this kind of request.

Two days later, faced by rumors of a possible sanction against Teleamazonas, García declared publicly that CONARTEL would not be initiating any kind of proceedings against the station.

However, on 12 May, García asked the Telecommunications Superintendent to evaluate if the Teleamazonas case merits initiating proceedings.

This would be based, according to García, on the fact that the station allegedly infringed clauses E and H of Article 58 of the chapter on Prohibitions of the Broadcasting and Television Law, which prohibits: e) Broadcasting news based on alleged information that may cause harm or social or public disturbances; h) Publicizing articles or activities prohibited by the Law or Regulations.

If it is proven that an infringement of the law took place, Teleamazonas will be suspended for a total of 90 days, as another process was initiated against it in February because of its broadcast of the Ambato Bullfighting Fair.

The station's vice-president, Carlos Jijón, condemned CONARTEL's request, and said that he believes that officials are attacking a station that opposes the government in order to ingratiate themselves with the government and keep their positions.

In a separate development on 30 April, CONARTEL issued a resolution prohibiting the media from broadcasting images or sounds that may promote or make reference to racial discrimination and the sex trade. The decision to do this is a reaction to a complaint presented by congresswoman María Alexandra Ocles on 23 April, opposing the contents of a comedy show that, she claimed, ridiculed the people of African descent.

CONARTEL's resolution forbids "the broadcast of images or sounds that lead to, promote or make reference to inequalities, exclusion, discrimination, ridicule or violence due to racial, ethnic or cultural issues, as well as the broadcast of images or sounds that lead to or promote sexual discrimination and/or the sex trade".

IPYS and FUNDAMEDIOS believe that the resolution impacts on freedom of expression and may lead to self-censorship by forcing radio and TV stations to review the contents of all programs, including news programs, based on a generic prohibition.

It should be noted that the constitution recognizes and guarantees all minorities the right not to be discriminated against and the Broadcasting and Television Law prevents the media from promoting racism and the sex trade.

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