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Ecuador's President Correa restricts media reports on active volcano

The Cotopaxi volcano
The Cotopaxi volcano

REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

This statement was originally published on fundamedios.org on 15 August 2015.

On 15 August 2015, President Rafael Correa signed decree 755, declaring a state of emergency throughout the country due to the increased activity of the Cotopaxi volcano, and ordered prior censorship on the media and social networks regarding any information related to this phenomenon, in order to avoid rumors and misinformation.

Article 5 of the decree reads as follows:

“Art. 5. In order to guarantee public security, prior censorship is declared on any information related to the eruptive process disseminated by the media. The public may only access information from official bulletins issued by the Ministry of Security in charge of coordination. The dissemination of unauthorized information by any media outlet, whether public or private, or by social networks, is forbidden. This censorship will be restricted exclusively to information related to this emergency and it is strictly forbidden to apply it for other purposes. To this effect, the Communications Secretariat (Secom) is designated as the authority in charge for the purposes established by Article 75 of the Communications Law”.

This article refers to the transmission of national chains to broadcast the messages given by the President, in cases of state of emergency, as provided by the Constitution.

A tweet by Secom stressed that the public should only get information from the official media and that the minister in charge of coordinating Security, César Navas, would be their spokesman.

Later at a press conference with Navas, the Communications Secretary, Fernando Alvarado, explained the prior censorship imposed:

“This means that any articles, testimonials or reports that you could produce as journalists could provide correct information or disinformation. This is a very sensitive issue and therefore we require that only the ministry in charge of Security and coordination should deal with it. I understand that you want to produce stories on this topic, but you will have to be very responsible and to take great care as you produce your stories, reports and photographs so not as to deviate at all from the clear official message regarding the dangers, prevention and tranquility of the population in the face of this natural phenomenon of the Cotopaxi volcano. Yes, the decree orders prior censorship, but it does not mean that you cannot do your job by going a little beyond from what is stated in the press releases or official information. It does mean, however, that you must deal absolutely responsibly with any information that you are given, which you can illustrate. The print media, especially, have very good graphic specialists. The most important thing is that there should not be any unnecessary panic among the population, but neither excessive calm”.

Alvarado, however, did not clarify the decree's scope concerning prior censorship on the social networks' coverage on the volcano.

The president signed the document after ending his Saturday broadcast from Pimampiro, Imbabura.

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