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Ecuadorian newspaper fined after "failing to follow order" from communications authority

On March 24th, 2014, the Superintendence of Information and Communication (SUPERCOM) fined Diario Extra 10% of its last three months' average income, for having committed repeated crimes.

According to SUPERCOM, the media outlet did not comply with a resolution it had issued, which demanded a public apology and the correction of the headlines of two pieces on a traffic accident, in which the former rector of the Polytechnic School of Chimborazo was killed. The outlet is also accused of not rectifying a request on time- after a complaint made by the citizens Mariana and Rocío Ceron, for a piece about a case that had no final judgment.

In the resolution No 002-2014-DNGJPO-INPS, the SUPERCOM decided to determine the “social responsibility of Diario Extra” and to establish the fine for repeating the crime, determined in paragraph 3 of article 23 of the Communications Law. This fine must be paid within 72 hours.

On January 27th, the SUPERCOM forwarded a resolution to Diario Extra, which ordered Diario Extra to rectify the headlines: "From the meeting to the grave" and "Went to heaven with a bachelor's degree", published the past 22nd and 23rd of November 2013, because the headlines were "not coherent and consistent with the content of the news." The entity also ordered the newspaper director to present a public apology to the representatives of the educational institution, with a copy to the Regulatory Council of Communication.

In this case, the media outlet argued the inability to rectify these headlines because they never received an order for rectification from the people affected, as is the procedure required by law.

As for the second case, the newspaper's defense said that a rectification was made on February 13th, the third day after being notified with the decision of the SUPERCOM. The defense criticized the sanction for recidivism, since this means "to commit the same offense twice" and that has not happened.

Carlos Ochoa, head of the SUPERCOM said, at a press conference on March 26th that "Diario Extra has been issuing offensives against human rights, against the dignity of people and that is why yesterday we decided to issue a fine against the media outlet .... ". He noted that "in both cases, Diario Extra in a conduct that could constitute disobedience to authority, refused to correct and present public apologies". The legal processes are already in the Prosecutor's Office to investigate whether or not the paper disobeyed the authority and the communications law. This offense is punishable under the Article 234 of the Penal Code which would allow for a sentence of imprisonment from eight days to one month.

Due to a lack of transparency in the processes of SUPERCOM against the media, only two previous economic sanctions are known, the first one is the case of journal El Universo, which was forced to change a cartoon and pay about $90,000 and the second, the RTS television station case, which paid about $60,000 for posting information about a case under investigation. Both occurred in February 2014.

The main international bodies for the protection of freedom of expression have indicated that the Ecuadorian Communications Law, in force since June 2013, is a law which violates the basic principles that protect this fundamental human right and has been sued for unconstitutionality by the Constitutional Court by more than 60 people involved in communication, arts and Ecuadorian literature. But after four months the court has not yet resolved its unconstitutionality.

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