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Ecuadorian journalists join lawsuit seeking to strike down controversial Communications Law


A group of 60 persons -- among them journalists, politicians, writers and former Ecuadorian legislators -- have filed a new lawsuit before the Constitutional Court with the goal of revoking the country's controversial communications law, representing the second attempt to strike down the law through the courts. 

The lawsuit argues that the approval of the so-called "gag law," as it's called by the opposition, went against the country's own constitution, which does not define communications as a public service, like the law does. Doing so allows the state to regulate private media outlets through civil and penal sanctions, according to newspaper Hoy.

The lawsuit also challenges the law's Article 1, through which the government can regulate "the exercise of communications rights." The lawsuit calls the article unconstitutional. 

In total, the lawsuit contains 23 other challenges to the law, Hoy reported.

Rafael Correa. Source: Emilio Sánchez/Presidencia de la República de Ecuador.

The controversial Communications Law was signed into law by Rafael Correa in late June with the unanimous support of the country's ruling party Alianza País, which controls the National Assembly, a few months after Correa was re-elected for a second term in February this year.

One of the most polemical aspects of the new law is the creation of the term "media lynching." The law prohibits the "dissemination of information in a coordinated and reiterative manner [...] with the purpose of discrediting or harming the reputation of a natural or legal person."According to the director of the Ecuadorian organization Fundamedios, César Ricuarte, there is no legal precedent for this concept in any other country's legislation or international treaty.

The first legal challenge to the law was filed before the country's Constitutional Court on July 4 by opposition congressman Luis Fernando Torres, which objected to 40 articles by saying the Assembly did not have the opportunity to debate them. The lawsuit argues that the law violates constitutional norms and international treaties on freedom of expression and human rights.

Correa's presidency has been characterized by its constant confrontations with the country's private media, which have included public attacks and lawsuits against them.

Last week, Interior Minister José Serrano threatened newspapers La Hora, El Universo and El Comercio with issuing sanctions under the Communications Law for having published stories on police officers' use of rubber bullets and tear gas to repress protests in defense of the Yasuní-ITT national park. Serrano disputed the allegations and gave the newspapers 24 hours to present evidence to support their stories.

In response, El Comercio rejected Serrano's ultimatum in an editorial directed to its readers.


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