Reporters Without Borders expressed great concern today at the recent decline in press freedom in Ecuador and strongly condemned the murder of Ricardo Mendoza, the driver of Telesistema TV station chief Carlos Muñoz Insua, during an attempt to kill the journalist on 9 February. It also deplored the harassment in recent weeks of radio stations La Luna and Radio Quito.
Two gunmen fired seven bullets at Muñoz Insua’s car as it was waiting at traffic lights in the southwestern city of Guayaquil. He was not hurt but Mendoza was killed.
The self-styled terrorist group The Revolutionary People’s Militias (MRP) later claimed responsibility for the attack, accusing Telesistema of not broadcasting its statements. It said it would carry out further attacks and threatened other media and journalists. It said it regretted the death of Mendoza because he had not been their target.
Miguel Rivadeneira, boss of Radio Quito, which is critical of the government, received five anonymous telephoned death threats on 26 and 27 January after broadcast of an interview with a general about arms smuggling involving the army.
The 3 February evening news programme on the TV station Teleamazonas said the government was taking administrative measures to shut down the privately-owned radio station La Luna, which has criticised President Lucio Gutiérrez. The station strongly opposed the arrest of indigenous leader Humberto Cholango last December.
The station gave extensive coverage to listener protests about this and about a 1 February attempt to kill the president of the National Confederation of Indigenous Peoples (CONAIE). La Luna chief Paco Velasco was summoned on 4 February by the ethics committee of the national broadcasting supervisory body, AER. The next day, the government said it had no plans to get the station closed down.
A strategy paper supposedly from the army intelligence service was sent to media outlets and political parties on 4 February listing journalists and media deemed subversive, including radio stations La Luna and Visión and the daily paper El Comercio. The army denied having anything to do with it.