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Government misrepresents Freedom House's position on free expression

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Freedom House is very concerned that an article published on March 4, 2012 in "El Ciudadano" misrepresented Freedom House's position on freedom of expression in Ecuador. The article included inaccurate facts about a meeting between representatives of the Ecuadorean government and Freedom House; Freedom House welcomes the Ecuadorean government's move to retract the article.

The interview with the Communication Minister in "El Ciudadano", no longer available online, suggested that Freedom House understood the President's decision to sue "El Universo" and the authors of the book, “The Big Brother.” According to the article, the Communication Minister claimed, “[NGOs in Washington] clearly understood the reasons of the President to send the 'El Universo' and 'The Big Brother' cases to the court. What they could not understand was the jail sentences and the amounts of the fine.”

The meeting, which was held at the request of the Ecuadorean government, took place on February 27 in Freedom House's offices in Washington D.C. The government delegation included Ecuadorean Ambassador Nathalie Cely Suárez, Ecuador's Communications Minister, Fernando Alvarado, personal assistant to the president, Gustavo Jalkh and other government representatives.

Freedom House reiterates its position that the "El Universo" case was a disturbing step backwards for freedom of expression in Ecuador, and that the ruling will have a chilling effect not only for the press but also for all dissent in the country. Freedom House explained this position clearly to the participants of the meeting, and expressed concern about the use of libel to criminalize opinion and free press.

“Because the government representatives expressed that the government does not like libel, we asked the delegation to take steps to decriminalize libel in Ecuador, as a concrete example of their stated commitment to free expression,” said Viviana Giacaman, Director for Latin America Programs at Freedom House, who met with the delegates.

In another part of the interview, the article said that “one issue that [NGOs in Washington] understood was that the information they received was not all the truth and that the information was very biased, and this led to them to affirm that in Ecuador there was a climate of respect of human rights.”

“As part of our analytical work we are open to receive information from different sources, including the government, and this is what was expressed to the delegation,” Giacaman said. “During the meeting we clearly stated that we are very concerned about the press freedom situation in Ecuador and that, moreover, we expect a significant decline in our ratings of press freedom this year.”

Ecuador is ranked Partly Free in Freedom of the World 2012, Freedom House's annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.

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