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Government makes false accusations against Fundamedios in retaliation for its appearance before the IACHR

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 2 November 2011 - Radio and TV broadcasts, constant defamatory remarks and accusations by government officials and threats by its supporters, including a warning, sent by email and through the social networks, that Fundamedios' executives will be physically eliminated, have been the result of the hearing on the situation of press freedom in Ecuador which took place on 25 October 2011 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington. Fundamedios participated in that hearing as a defender of human rights along with victims and journalists.

The most serious incident took place on Tuesday 1 November, when at prime time, 20:00, just before the news programs began, the Communications Department ordered the broadcasting of a TV telecast, around 13'18" minutes long, in which false accusations against Fundamedios's Executive Director and the organization as a whole were presented, even linking them with individuals accused by the government of participating in crimes and plotting against the State.

The telecast stated that Fundamedios has avoided making reference to attacks suffered by journalists linked to the government and mentioned several examples. In fact, Fundamedios issued alerts on each of the incidents when they took place: No 119 (05 November 2010); No 165 (21 April 2010) and No 345 (21 July 2011). They were also published in reports disseminated publicly.

A voiceover can be heard during the broadcast saying "No! About all of these cases of evident attacks, not a word. César Ricaurte was silent and Ricaurte now dares to denounce the State as an aggressor," while an image of Fundamedios's director can be seen in black and white with an X over his lips.

In a different radio broadcast transmitted on 28 October, which interrupted the beginning of some evening news programs for 10 and a half minutes, the appearance of the petitioners before the IACHR was delegitimized and it was argued that freedom of expression does exist in Ecuador.

Part of this broadcast stated: ". . . the delegation of journalists of the so-called independent media raised their voice in protest because, according to them, (and) the interests they represent, this government is a threat against freedom of expression . . . ".

The interventions of Ricaurte and Mauricio Alarcón of Fundamedios, who denounced the deterioration in freedom of expression and the lack of independence of the Ecuadorian justice system, were called into question during the government broadcast.

In addition to these two broadcasts, immediately after the IACHR hearing, government officials spoke out against the petitioners. During a press conference, Chancellor Ricardo Patiño stated, regarding the petitioners, that "they are only trying to look after business interests; they are just the 'personal representatives' of the media owners, who are in an ongoing campaign against the government. Why? Because they feel their rights have been impacted and that is what counts. They couldn't care less about the citizens' rights to live well."

Similarly, Fernando Alvarado, national communications secretary, said "the only objective of this appearance before the IACHR, was not the defense of the rights of a journalist or a media outlet, but of economic interests . . . we should ask if Fundamedios is with the Ecuadorian people or more concerned about dollars, and capital interests."

In addition, a number of articles discrediting Fundamedios were published, like the one written by Xavier Lasso on 1 November titled "A critique of Fundamedios".

( . . . )

FUNDAMEDIOS condemns the threats and false accusations, as all it did was to appear before the highest continental body for the protection of human rights to denounce the severe and very serious limitations on freedom of expression in Ecuador. We note that the government's reaction as evidence that everything that was presented before the IACHR by the petitioners has been confirmed.

Moreover, we point out that this campaign of threats and accusations incurs in several illegalities, such as failure to comply with the IACHR's Art. 63 about the protection that States are obliged to provide to those who appear before this body. Also, that political use has been made of documents delivered to the Internal Revenue Service, solely for tax purposes, violating the principle of the protection of information.

Fundamedios firmly condemns as false and malicious the attempt to link us with individuals who, according to the government, are connected with crimes against the State or conspiracies. This extremely serious accusation by the Ecuadorian government has been made without any evidence and we declare that no Fundamedios executive, official or supporter knows, has been connected with or has any link to individuals with a dark past, as was suggested by the government's broadcast.

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