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Third investigation launched against Teleamazonas; newspaper editor threatened

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 9 June 2009, the president of the National Broadcasting and Television Council (CONARTEL), Antonio García, confirmed that a third investigation has been launched against the Teleamazonas television station. The investigation is linked to the broadcasting of a report about the installation of oil exploration machinery on the island of Puná by Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. Teleamazonas is critical of the government.

If it is sanctioned, the station may lose its broadcasting license, as it was already convicted, on 3 June, for broadcasting bullfights. In addition, it is facing another investigation, initiated in May, for reporting live about an allegedly clandestine center for the counting of electoral votes.

García pointed out that the station infringed statute e) of Article 58 of the chapter on prohibitions of the Broadcasting and Television Law, which forbids the "broadcasting of news based on alleged events that may cause damages or social or public commotions".

IPYS and FUNDAMEDIOS believe that CONARTEL's resolutions, and especially the application of Article 58 of the Broadcasting and Television Law, are paving the way for the station to lose its broadcasting licence.

According to the Broadcasting and Television Law (Art. 67, statute e) a station's licence will be terminated "when offenses of a technical character are repeated that would be sanctioned with two fines and a suspension". The article was approved in 1975, during a military dictatorship, and its application contradicts the new Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression and the right to be informed.

In a separate incident, on 9 June, journalist Juan Carlos Calderón Vivanco, "Diario Expreso"'s editor-in-chief, said that in February two men threatened him with a gun when he was walking in a residential neighbourhood of Guayaquil, in southeastern Ecuador. The journalist believes this to be related to a series of reports about alleged irregularities that took place in the Ministry of Health regarding the rating of suppliers.

The journalist denounced the fact after consulting with security experts who told him that because of the way he was intercepted it did not appear as an attempted burglary to them, but was instead meant to send him a warning and a way to "show how vulnerable I can be," Calderón said.

The journalist told FUNDAMEDIOS that one of the assailants pointed the gun at his head and said: "bow your head down and don't say anything".

Calderón, who believes that his reports and the threats are linked, also revealed that he received a telephone threat telling him to stop reporting about the case a few days after publishing the investigation.
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