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International forum calls on global community to protect freedom of expression in Ecuador

As Ecuador’s main press advocacy organization fights to stay alive in the face of government orders to dissolve it, an international forum of journalists and free speech advocates released a 15-point action plan to address challenges to freedom of expression in that country.

Illustration from Twitter account of @Fundamedios

Attendees of the Quito Forum for Freedom of Expression convened on September 15 to review the state of press freedom and freedom of expression two years after the implementation of Ecuador’s Organic Law on Communication (LOC), according to the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).

A week earlier, on September 8, the National Communications Secretariat (Secom) notified the Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study, or Fundamedios, that it was beginning the process of dissolving the organization. The government agency said the organization had violated statutes prohibiting it from exercising political activities. On September 14, Fundamedios declared resistance to the process of dissolution.

In its action plan, the forum directly addressed the government-initiated dissolution of Fundamedios and the LOC, which has been a concern of advocates since its enactment in 2013. The law created the media regulatory agency called the Superintendency of Information and Communication, also known as Supercom. In July, the government announced that, in the previous two years, Supercom had examined more than 500 cases against media outlets, punished 313 companies and doled out fines of about USD $274,000.

The forum called on freedom of expression and human rights organizations to address the dissolution process against Fundamedios and to form an expert committee to review the effects of the LOC “on freedom of expression, of opinion and of the press.” Attending organizations also decided to urge President Rafael Correa “that his government suspend the actions of the Communication Superintendency against news media” and asked for guarantees of due process and right to defense for news media and journalists.

As part of the other action items, the forum also decided to form committees to visit the Organization of American States, Inter-American Development Bank and other international bodies regarding democratic freedoms in Ecuador.

Photo from Twitter account of @Fundamedios

On September 17, representatives from the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) joined other national and international organizations, including the IAPA, in speaking against the dissolution.

A press release announcing the UN and IACHR statement said that “Individuals who form an association have the right to hold opinions and disseminate information of all kinds, including of a political nature, without interference by the State.”

The day-long forum in Quito was convened by the IAPA, Fundamedios and Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar.


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