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Ecuador - World Report 2009

75 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index

-  Area: 283,561 sq. km.
-  Population: 14,000,000.
-  Language: Spanish.
-  Head of state: Rafael Correa since January 2007

While he has developed a genuine public broadcasting service, President Rafael Correa has a conflictual relationship with a privately owned press that is virulent in its attacks on him. Prison sentences are handed down for breaches of press laws as two journalists, sentenced for “insult” found out.

Direct attacks against the press remain unusual in contrast with neighbouring countries, despite a slight increase in threats or demonstrations hostile to journalists at the start of the 2009. Ecuador generally holds an enviable position on the continent. The new constitution, sought by President Rafael Correa, adopted by referendum on 28 September 2008, reaffirms the right to communication, freedom of expression and pluralist news and information and also bans the creation of any “oligopoly or monopoly, direct or indirect, in media ownership and frequency use” (Article 17-3). Less than a year after his inauguration, the new head of state personally took the initiative to launch a first national television channel. The public service has since then been completed with the addition of a radio station and a daily newspaper with the purchase of El Telegrafo. The state also administers three other channels TC Television, Gamavision and CN3, the first two taken over from businessmen charged with “embezzlement”. Despite the independence usually enjoyed by these media, vice-president for information, José Toledo, resigned in March 2009, citing government pressure. A few days later, a government message broadcast on several channels personally lambasting some journalists working in the private sector, was the subject of strong protests. In response to often virulent attacks against him, President Rafael Correa goes in for robust retorts as happened at a 30 June 2007 press conference in which he called a journalist on the daily El Universo, Sandra Ochoa, a “fatty” (gordita horrosa) or when he started proceedings for “insult” - that went no further - against Francisco Vivanco, editorialist on the daily La Hora, who had called him a “vandal” in an article. Offences of “defamation”, “insult” or “denigration” remain punishable with prison sentences. Although at first acquitted, two journalists were convicted and imprisoned at the end of 2008 for “insult”. Milton Chacaguasay Flores, owner and editor of the weekly La Verdad, was sentenced to ten months and Freddy Aponte Aponte, of local private radio Luz y Vida, to six months. He was later released for “good behaviour” after serving three months, in January 2009.

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