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Government uses telecast to discredit journalist, human rights report

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 14 May 2012 - On 11 May 2012, a telecast ("cadena") ordered by the National Communications Department (SECOM) interrupted Ecuavisa's news program for eight and a half minutes. The cadena's aim was to discredit the work of interviewer Gabriela Baer and dismiss the information contained in the 2011 report on human rights by the Simón Bolivar Andean University, which was referred to as "academically fraudulent".

The cadena also questioned the content of an interview with Gina Benavides about the human rights report, which aired on Ecuavisa.

The telecast, which was only broadcast on Ecuavisa, noted that the report commented on sabotage and terrorism trials, the criminalisation of social protest, and trials against journalists. Then it questioned the fact that Ecuavisa "did not ascertain" the sources used in the investigation that the so called "biased" report was based on.

"Their journalists do not make the proper enquiries but accept statements as if they were true. Sources are not checked and there is not enough reading," said part of the voiceover.

Meanwhile, in his weekly radio and TV program, broadcast on 12 May, President Rafael Correa dismissed the human rights report and in a threatening tone ordered the "SENESCYT: (National Department of Superior Education, Science, Technology and Innovation) to deal with the matter! We cannot have these academic frauds . . . It is an embarassment that should be considered an academic fraud, it is completely lacking in investigation," said the chief of state while he challenged the University's director to specify who is involved in the 204 trials for sabotage and terrorism referred to in the report.

According to Fundamedios, there are several reasons why cadenas are attacks on freedom of expression: the first is that it is wrong to use a resource that, by law, is meant to be used to inform citizens and not to insult journalists; second, the cadenas are devoted exclusively to questioning journalists or programs; and third, the government is imposing information and disrupting the flow of information, because the cadenas usually interrupt programming for at least five minutes.

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