(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 31 May 2011 - Free expression advocates from around the world gathered this week in Beirut, Lebanon, at the 16th IFEX General Meeting. Thirty-three IFEX members signed on to the following letter:
Rafael Correa Delgado
President of the Republic of Ecuador
Delivered in hand
The undersigned free expression organisations express our concern about the current situation of press freedom in Ecuador and the conditions of extreme hostility in which the country's journalists and private media must do their work.
Firstly, Ecuador has become one of the countries with the most aggressions against journalists and the media in Latin America, with 151 aggressions reported during 2010 and 75 so far this year. We have been informed that in Ecuador journalists have been taken to trial and imprisoned and that you personally support lawsuits for exorbitant amounts against media outlets and journalists, such as the case of the demand for US$80 million against the newspaper "El Universo", its main directors and its feature writer Emilio Palacios, against whom a three year prison sentence is also requested. There is also the case against journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita, who have been sued for US$1.5 million. We know that more lawsuits and requests for sanctions against media outlets such as the newspapers "Diario Manabista" and "Diario Hoy", and the TV station Ecuavisa, also exist.
We have also been informed that radio stations have been closed down following questionable decisions regarding the non-renewal of their frequency concessions, as was the case with Radio Canela La Voz de la Esmeralda Oriental in the city of Macas, whose owner, journalist Wilson Cabrera, has also been criminally prosecuted, among many other cases.
All of this is happening while you constantly discredit and stigmatize the press in general, calling it corrupt, mediocre, and an enemy, without specifying your accusations in any of these cases. During the last few weeks, you have even referred to journalists as "ink hit-men" and to the media as "the new opium of the people", all of which constitutes a stigmatizing discourse that is spread using the full force of the State apparatus.
All we have described leads us to believe that a systematic policy is being applied by the Ecuadorian State to restrict the fundamental right to freedom of expression and of the press, to intimidate the press and to obstruct the work of the media.
We are also deeply concerned about the indiscriminate use of State resources for obligatory national announcements that stigmatize and attack journalists and the media, twisting the spirit of the social obligations radio and TV stations are meant to fulfill. We feel the same concern about the lavish use of official advertising without complying with the most elemental principles of transparency and fairness, and the use of State media outlets to continue disseminating the government's stigmatizing discourse about the media.
We would like to remind you that the State does not just have a passive obligation regarding freedom of expression, but should play an active role, as established by the Inter American Commission on Human Rights. Those who hold public office, therefore, can and should use their right to express their opinion, but must abstain from disseminating a stigmatizing discourse that results in turning journalists and the media into the targets of attacks.
For this reason, we make an appeal to the Ecuadorian State to assume its responsibilities in effectively guaranteeing freedoms of expression and freedom of the press.
We request the Ecuadorian Government to modify its policies and practices so that it can become a guarantor of the rights and freedoms as a necessary action that would allow us to speak of a full democracy in Ecuador.
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen/Alliance of Independent Journalists
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Centre for Independent Journalism - Malaysia
Committee to Protect Journalists
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Free Media Movement
Globe International Center
Hong Kong Journalists Association
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Public Association "Journalists"