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Government secretariat imposes broadcasts on private TV station in Ecuador

On August 1 and 2, two broadcasts ordered by the Secretariat of Communications (SECOM) interrupted Ecuavisa's news segment for five and two minutes, respectively. These broadcasts were ordered as a right of reply, even though the recently approved Communications Law establishes a clear procedure for such situations.

The August 1 broadcast was ordered to clarify the “huge lies” that opposition congressman Andres Paez allegedly told in the news segment, when he criticized some decisions of the National Narcotics Control Council (CONSEP). SECOM argued that the broadcast was necessary since “Congressman Paez made such wrongful and untrue comments that the audience needed to know the truth in the same news section”.

During August 2 broadcast, Ecuavisa's anchorwoman Estefani Espin was said to wrongfully link high-ranked authorities with acts of disrespect against Ecuadorian women, with regards to an interview Espin did with opposition congressman Abadala Bucaram Pulley about a sanction he was subject to due to some alleged insults he perpetrated against women. The broadcast indicated that Espin suggested that there was a double standard in the way the government was treating the issue since similar insults come also from the governing party's officials. The voice-over in the SECOM broadcast questions the fact that Espin did not mention the “real aggressions that Ecuador suffered”.

Both broadcasts were justified under the premise that “it's the government's right, under the Constitution and under the Communications Law”.

However article 24 mandates: “ Any person or group that has been directly harmed through the media or a network in terms of their rights or dignity, has the right to ask the network to broadcast their response free of any cost. The response must be aired in the same space, page or section, or in the same program within the next 72 hours after the request has been presented”.

Lawyers interviewed by Fundamedios maintain that the article established three conditions to be met in order to exercise the right of reply: that a person or a group's reputation or dignity is harmed; that the affected party is in fact a person or a group of people, and that the response is made to the network. The broadcasts ordered by SECOM do not comply with any of these requirements. These response broadcasts were imposed by force.

Article 74 of the Communications Law also establishes that “when messages of national interest are to be broadcast by orders of the President or any part of the Executive Branch, such spaces will be used only for information on issues of public interest”.

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