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IAPA assails official anti-press propaganda campaign

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, July 2, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today opposed an aggressive television ad campaign aired during World Cup games by the government of Ecuador against independent news media and in support of a controversial planned communication law, final debate on which is expected next week.

Under the slogan "Freedom of expression is now everybody's: The people's revolution is under way", the official ads, broadcast during the World Cup soccer championship in South Africa, belittle the press, radio and television and accuse them of "distorting the truth, attempting to return to running the country as the strongmen and creating a dictatorship under certain media."

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, condemned the campaign and questioned why "the government is using official propaganda to discredit and defame the media, with the intent of swaying public opinion and the current parliamentary debate in order to pass a communication law backed by those in power that seriously fractures freedom of expression."

The campaign, costing $1 million and broadcast during all the soccer matches, consists of four 30-second spots. They are aired during commercial breaks in the World Cup, whose broadcast rights were acquired by state-owned TV channels.

Robert Rivard, Chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, declared, "This defamatory campaign that accuses the press of lying, stirring up violence and practicing journalism with the sole aim of making money is precisely the type of words that President Rafael Correa uses against the press of his country."

The Ecuadorean Legislative Assembly is due to begin final debate Monday (July 6) on the controversial Organic Law on Communication. The bill, which its proponents claim would "protect the citizen and provide true freedom of expression, and do away with the existing defamation and aggression", has been described by legal analysts as a "gag law" that fosters prior censorship and creates a Communication Council with power to impose sanctions.

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