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Documentary directors report censorship by cinemas in Ecuador

On August 11, 2013, film makers Manolo Sarmiento and Lisandra Rivera, who directed the documentary “The Death of Jaime Roldós” ( “La Muerte de Jaime Roldós” ), reported online that the El Rosado Corporation, which owns the movie theater chain “Supercines”, refused to show the documentary in its movie theaters for “its content”. The documentary addresses the facts around the death of former president Jaime Roldós in 1981.

Lisandra Rivera told Fundamedios that “Supercines verbally explained that they did not want to show the documentary due to some references to former Ecuadorian President Leon Febres Cordero”, and because “they disagreed with some references to the high class of the time”.

In a letter addressed to Johny and Danny Czarninsky, Supercines owners, dated July 23, the film directors expressed “complete disagreement” with the fact that El Rosado Corporation rejected their request to screen the documentary due its political content, and requested that the company reconsider its decision. “Supercines is an important movie theater chain in cities like Milagro, Manta, Portoviejo, Santo Domingo, Machala, Quevedo, Riobamba, Babahoyo, Daule and Playas. In many of these cities, those are the only movie theaters that exist”.

Rivera said that this decision meant that the documentary would not be screened in 10 Ecuadorian cities. Nevertheless, the documentary will be screened by other theaters. The premiere will be on August 23.

Fundamedios rejects all actions that entail prior censorship against a documentary such as this one, which expresses the views of its makers on an issue of public interest, such as the death of a former president. In this regard, Principle 5 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, indicates that:

“Prior censorship, direct or indirect interference in or pressure exerted upon any expression, opinion or information transmitted through any means of oral, written, artistic, visual or electronic communication must be prohibited by law. Restrictions to the free circulation of ideas and opinions, as well as the arbitrary imposition of information and the imposition of obstacles to the free flow of information violate the right to freedom of expression”.

This provision applies to any kind of interference, whether it comes from the State or private actors, that may cause prior censorship and impede the free flow of ideas. This is particularly true when private actors that hold dominant positions in the market act in a way that impedes others from expressing their ideas.

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