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Journalist in Ecuador fired over personal comments on Twitter

This statement was originally published on fundamedios.org on 20 August 2015.

On 17 August 2015, journalist Martín Pallares was fired from the newspaper El Comercio for comments that he made via his personal Twitter account, where he has been very critical of the Ecuadorian government.

The journalist, who had worked for El Comercio for 13 years and was responsible for new digital developments, arrived at work as usual, only to be notified of his dismissal on the grounds that he had not complied with “cordial requests”, made several months earlier, about the need to abide by the newspaper's handbook of good practices for social networks.

The newspaper's directors informed Pallares that it would be his last day in the press room because he had preferred to continue expressing himself through the social network rather than keep his job. This despite the fact that in the description of his account he has stated “What I say here is my sole responsibility and it has no connection to my employer”.

A letter sent to Fundamedios by Grupo El Comercio's attorney at law explained that Pallares' departure was caused because the journalist, through his Twitter account “failed to comply with the good practices in social networks guidelines that has been in force at El Comercio since May 2012, despite repeated admonishments”. The letter also stated that the guidelines “highlight the need to be conscious about the fact that everything that is written on Twitter compromises not just the owner of the account, but also the company's corporate image” and that “disparaging opinions can cause loss of credibility for the author and for the newspaper and legal actions against both”.

Pallares, meanwhile, said that the rules in question are recommendations that the company makes to its employees. “I admit I may have been a bit liberal when following those recommendations, but I believe everything I said there are things I would have written in my opinion columns; everything I said in Twitter, therefore, are things I stand by”, said the journalist. He also argued that the exercise of freedom of expression in social networks can not be limited in any way, since it is a fundamental human right.

Pallares, with more than 15,800 Twitter followers, is known for commenting on various current issues, questioning authorities and sharing his opinions. His weekly columns published in El Comercio and his blog “Desde la Tranquera”, with comments on the political arena and national events, are well known. As a journalist, Pallares worked as editor of the political section of El Comercio and before that at the newspapers HOY and El Universo. He was also a correspondent for the newspaper El Tiempo of Bogotá in Ecuador for over 5 years, and a fellow of the Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 2010.

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