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Public officials in Ecuador launch offensives against media outlets

On September 23 and 25, 2013 the Ministry of the Interior, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Secretariat of Communication and assembly member Miguel Carvajal, sent several letters to the media network Ecuavisa and newspapers La Hora, El Comercio, Hoy and El Extra, requesting their right to response to several stories on matters of public interest.

The Ministry of the Interior sent two letters on September 23 and 25 to newspapers El Comercio and La Hora discrediting the papers and requesting their right to response to an article referring to former opposition assembly member Galo Lara, who now resides in Panama after being convicted for allegedly participating in a triple murder two years ago.

The first letter ordered El Comercio to prove such affirmations or grant the Ministry of the Interior its right to response in an immediate, mandatory and free fashion, to correct the “inaccurate information presented out of context”. The request refers to a September 2012 report entitled “Official commission returned with no results”, with regards to the Galo Lara case. In its letter, the Ministry indicated that "several affirmations had been made, which are false, manipulative and based on mere rumors”. The Ministry went on to say that “such information shows the hatred and lies of the 'mercantilist' press, which is used to publish news based on their selfish interests to gain profit”.

The second letter, signed by the Communications Advisor of the Ministry of the Interior, was made public in Diario La Hora on September 25, under the title “Response requested by the Ministry of the Interior after interview with Galo Lara”. The letter discredited the newspaper's interview with Galo Lara, and accused the newspaper of manipulating the truth and fostering impunity “to defend their thirst for profit and their political positions based on anger and hate”.

In this regard, the letter indicated that “lacking morals, ethics and full of sarcasm and cold blood, the report in Diario La Hora allows Lara to “insult and offend”. Likewise, the letter accused La Hora of disguising as a journalistic method a “merciless manipulation of the truth”, and ordered the paper to stop “taking events out of context and making truths out of lies”.

Regarding the Galo Lara case, on September 25 a national broadcast ordered by the Secretary of Communications (SECOM) interrupted the news segment of Ecuavisa and discredited its anchorman, Alfredo Pinoargote, who had referred to the Lara case as political persecution.

Assembly member Miguel Carvajal sent a letter to Diario Hoy questioning a piece by Roberto Aguilar named “The war calls of Correa's regime” from September 22, in which Carvajal claimed that a private conversation between him and his fellow party assembly members had been published out of context.

Carvajal demanded to get a notarized copy of the interview by Aguilar, a notarized copy of any judicial authorization to record and public the conversation, and a copy of the recording. On this matter, Diario Hoy indicated that what Aguilar wrote corresponded to what he said and heard at that time and place.

The piece had covered a meeting in the National Assembly during which President Correa had requested approval to declare that exploitation of oil within Yasuní National Park a matter of public interest.

Finally, the Office of the National Ombudsman demanded that La Hora newspaper apologize publicly to all Ecuadorian women for the article entitled “Beware of gold-diggers” referring to these types of people and their behavior. The letter sent by the Ombudsman demanded that a similar space in the paper be set aside for the Ombudsman's response.

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