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Radio journalists resign, denounce pressure to tone down their rhetoric

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 25 April 2011 - Journalists Pablo and Lindon Sanmartín Rodríguez, who worked for the Radio Satelital station in the city of Loja, 647 km south of Quito, have resigned from their positions with the station's news programme. The two reporters had been pressured to "tone down their rhetoric" and been asked to censor information about certain issues such as the death of newborns, alleged irregularities within the Magistrates' Council and criticisms of Provincial Governor Pablo Carrera.

Pablo Sanmartín, who is also the president of the Loja Journalists' Association, told Fundamedios that he and his brother submitted their resignations on 11 April "to avoid conflicts with the media outlet and government authorities."

The journalist stated that the decision to step aside was made after a meeting held with the station's management, during which the reporters were informed of a change in the news programme's editorial line and a ban on dealing with certain sensitive issues that could impact on the station's chances of being allocated adverts from the public sector.

Included among the changes was a ban on interviewing certain politicians, members of the National Assembly and editorial writers who are critical of the government; the programme would also refrain from mentioning anything related to the governor, the death of newborn babies at the regional hospital Isidro Ayora and the appointment of members to the Magistrates' Council. Finally, the journalists were asked to "tone down their rhetoric" when discussing political matters, especially when referring to Ecuador as compared to other democracies".

"We surmised that the radio station must be under political pressure and they were only transmitting that message," Sanmartín commented.

The journalist believes the state of free expression in the region is alarming because "information on political and legal matters is being censored".

The director of Radio Satelital told the state-owned media outlet "El Ciudadano" that neither the federal government nor the local authorities had requested the dismissal of journalists Lindon and Pablo Sanmartín Rodriguez, who resigned voluntarily. He did acknowledge, however, the change in the station's editorial line.

"In the station, as in any other media outlet, there can be changes in the format of the programmes being broadcast, but a responsible and balanced journalism is always welcome . . . we would not permit any pressures if these were to be exerted, but they have not," Salinas emphasized.

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