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Ecuador daily fined just days after ending print edition

The repressive effects of Ecuador's one-year-old communications law can be seen in a regulator's decision to fine a newspaper just days after the daily said the law was the reason it was shuttering its print edition, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today.

Ecuador's Communication and Information Superintendence Office (SUPERCOM), which the communications law created to monitor compliance, sanctioned daily HOY's publisher with a USD$57,800 (€47,510) fine on July 4 for an alleged failure to publish the number of printed copies in circulation on 17 editions in May and June.

The fine followed HOY's June 29 announcement that it was ending its print edition due to “an environment adverse to the development of a free and independent daily publication”.

In a final printed editorial, HOY's management pointed to “the gradual loss of liberties, a limitation of constitutional guarantees taking place in Ecuador [and] the self-censorship imposed by the Communications Law” as the reason the daily was ceasing print operations after 32 years. The editorial noted that the daily will continue to publish online via their website hoy.com.ec.

The June 29 editorial also said that “the direct and indirect attacks against the press not run by the government have generated in the last seven years an environment adverse to the development of a free and independent publication open to different currents of opinion”.

President Rafael Correa disputed that claim in a June 30 post on his official Twitter account, @MashiRafael, attributing HOY's decision to financial difficulties, not government intervention. The post stated: “...HOY closes due to the Communication Law. The truth: it has been mounting big losses due to its terrible administration....”

International Press Institute Press Freedom Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean Vanessa I. Garnica said IPI was “deeply concerned by the continued sanctioning of news groups as well as journalists in Ecuador by the government entity SUPERCOM.”

She explained: “These kinds of actions operate as a gag order on journalists and publications attempting to inform the people of Ecuador on information that may be of public interest. Not only has HOY made the tough decision to end its printed edition, which may ultimately have reached a broader readership in areas where Internet access is not available, but SUPERCOM now has decided to sanction the publication once again with another penalty, which further confirms the argument that the communications law obstructs press freedom in the country.”

Ecuador in June marked the first anniversary of the communications law's entry into force. Recent coverage has cited several instances in which the law was used to target publications, news programs and journalists for news content and even cartoonists.

IPI in May published an article detailing a number of cases that SUPERCOM has handled since June 2013.

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