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Constitutional tribunal imposes preemptive elections censorship

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - 13 July 2012 - On 12 July 2012, the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador lifted the precautionary measures that had suspended the application of amendments to articles 203 and 207 of the Organic Electoral Law, known as the "Democracy Code". This has led to the enforcement of regulations that establish preemptive censorship and restrictions to journalists' work during electoral periods.

The National Electoral Council (CNE), an organization that is not involved in the process, requested through an amicus curiae only the annulment of the precautionary measures related to the method for allocating seats. However, the Constitutional Tribunal's plenary, led by its vice-president, Édgar Zárate, decided to annul the measures that affected all the challenged articles. The decision was adopted with the favorable vote of six magistrates, while two voted against and one was not present.

The final resolution on the action of unconstitutionality presented on 7 February 2012 by Fundamedios, AEDEP, the legal clinics of San Francisco University and journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita will be announced next week when trial judge Alfonso Luz Yúnez presents his report to the plenary.

Farith Simon, dean of the Law Faculty of San Francisco University in Quito and one of those involved in presenting the action for unconstitutionality, said he was surprised by the annulment of the precautionary measures and confirmed no notification was ever received with regard to the amicus presented by the CNE. “We do not know what arguments were presented by the Council and were not able to express our own arguments about the subject. This is a flagrant infringement of the rights of the defense and the principle of equal treatment of all parties”, he asserted.

On 4 January 2012, the President of the Republic introduced amendments to the electoral law which state that “the media will abstain from promoting, directly or indirectly, through special reports or any other kind of messages that tend to advocate in favor or against, any given candidate, postulate, option, electoral preference or political thesis”, as well as from publishing “any kind of information determined by public institutions, or disseminating electoral propaganda, opinions or images 48 hours before the day of the election and until 17:00 on that day”.

These regulations are so broad that they have been considered preemptive censorship and therefore have been constitutionally challenged.

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