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Ecuador16 May 2005

Minister promises protection for journalist during surprise visit to radio station

In the course of a surprise visit to Radio Luna on 10 May, interior minister Mauricio Gándara interrupted a live broadcast of the programme "La Clave" and appealed on the air for journalist Paco Velasco to return to Ecuador, promising him and his family "very personalized" protection, the El Comercio newspaper reported.

Quito-based Radio Luna played a key role in an uprising that began on 13 April and resulted in President Lucio Gutiérrez’s ouster a week later, and it was sabotaged twice and fired on during the days preceding his removal.

Velasco was the target of repeated death threats since the start of the uprising and finally left the country with his wife and two children on 2 May after receiving no protection from the government or police.

9.05.05 - Death threats force head of La Luna radio to flee Ecuador

Director of La Luna radio, Paco Velasco, fled Ecuador on 3 May, fearing for his own and his family’s lives after receiving repeated threats, according to the website Ecuadorinmediato. Velasco said he took the decision because he felt his safety could not be guaranteed. The Quito-based radio played an active part in bringing about the downfall of the former president Lucio Gutiérrez, on 20 April. The station was the target of two acts of sabotage and one bombing during days of rioting that preceded the removal of the former head of state. Chilean photographer Julio Augusto García died in the turmoil. Velasco blamed the threats made against him on the armed group "Los Contraforajidos" that supports the ousted president.

21.04.2005-Chilean press photographer dies amid political turmoil and violence against news media

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the violence against the press, including threats, shooting and sabotage attempts against radio La Luna, that has occurred amid the turmoil of the past few days leading to President Lucio Gutiérrez’s overthrow yesterday. It also deplored the death of Chilean freelance photographer Julio Augusto García for unexplained reasons during a demonstration in Quito on 19 April.

"There is no guarantee that President Gutiérrez’s removal and replacement by Vice-President Alfredo Palacio will end this state of siege and anarchy that has exposed both pro-government and opposition media to reprisals," the press freedom organization said.

The organization said it urged the new Ecuadorean government to immediately order a thorough investigation into García’s death, adding: "We also call on the government to respect press diversity and, if necessary, to provide adequate police protection to the media that are most at danger."

According to a preliminary investigation and information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, García died of a heart attack caused by the teargas used by police to disperse demonstrators outside parliament in Quito who were calling for Gutiérrez’s resignation. He died in the Eugenio Espejo hospital to which he was taken after collapsing.

Radio La Luna, which was very critical of the deposed president, was fired on four times by unidentified gunmen at around 1 a.m. yesterday. The station had received telephone threats the previous afternoon saying: "Tonight La Luna will be blown to pieces." Two days before, on 17 April, its broadcasts were interrupted for 45 minutes when transmission cables were severed. Following their repair, they were sabotaged again the next day, causing a six-hour interruption.

Opponents of the deposed president yesterday roughed up a crew with the TV station Ecuavisa as they were filming a bus carrying the president’s supporters, while Daniela Kraemer, the correspondent of the Spanish daily El País, was yesterday manhandled by demonstrators opposed to the new president.

In this country
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Call for release of newspaper editor who has completed half of 10-month sentence
22 January - Ecuador
Community radio journalist released but facing criminal proceedings
15 December - Ecuador
Call for release of a second journalist imprisoned for “insult”
5 December - Ecuador
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9 July - Ecuador
Seizures of a radio station and two TV stations called “inopportune” in run-up to referendum on new constitution

in the annual report
Ecuador - Annual Report 2008
Ecuador - Annual report 2007
Ecuador - Annual report 2006

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Closure of Radio Caracas Televisión consolidates media hegemony
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Americas press releases
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President Obama urged to raise freedom of expression in his Cairo speech
29 May - Venezuela
Open letter to President Hugo Chavez to protest about official hounding of Globovisión
27 May - Mexico
Crime reporter abducted and killed in Durango state
20 May - Cuba
Anyone can browse the Internet... unless they are Cuban
15 May - Cuba
Journalist gets three-year jail sentence

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