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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

In Ecuador, journalists are attacked during coverage of protests against rising fuel prices



*This story has been updated.

Fifty-one journalists suffered some form of aggression during coverage of the general transport strike and protests that have hit the country since Oct. 3, according to freedom of expression organization Fundamedios.

The organization recorded 30 cases in which police officers violently advanced against journalists, photographers and cameramen from digital, print and televised media outlets. There were also 17 cases of verbal and physical aggression against journalists by demonstrators and another four cases from unknown persons. Additionally, six media outlets were attacked, such as, radio stations Pichincha Universal (Quito) and Centro (Ambato) suffered power outages, according to Fundamedios.

Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno declared a state of emergency after the country was seized by protests against ending fuel subsidies, El País reported. As a result, diesel prices rose 120 percent and gasoline prices rose 24 percent, Deutsche Welle reported.

Fundamedios demanded that the national government guarantee and protect the work of the press. "It is not possible that so many communication professionals were attacked by the National Police so violently while fulfilling their duty to inform the population," it said.

Among those assaulted is Julio Estrellas, photographer for El Comercio, "beaten violently by 15 police officers and hit with tear gas," according to Fundamedios. Daniel Molineros, an API agency photographer, was beaten when he tried to defend his colleague, as the images posted on Twitter by community media outlet Wambra show.

Another video, published on the website of newspaper El Universo, shows when a fallen journalist is beaten and kicked by at least nine police officers, despite calls from fellow professionals.

The National Union of Journalists of Ecuador (UNP, for its initials in Spanish) issued a statement to reject “all forms of violence and physical or verbal aggression against journalists and press workers, coming from misfit elements linked to street protests or from condemnable abuse of force by police.” The UNP also stressed that “the disproportionate attack of press workers...is a wrongful act against freedom of expression, leads to collective censorship and affects the foundations of democracy.”

The organization also urged Ecuador's Cordicom (Information and Communication Council) to take steps to ensure the work of the country's journalists, according to the organization's Facebook post. For its part, the council issued a statement calling for “respect for the integrity of the communications workers covering current events,” it wrote on Twitter.

Amnesty International has criticized the use of the Armed Forces to crack down on street protests in Ecuador. The director of the organization for the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas, said: “President Moreno must ensure that the human rights of demonstrators, journalists and social leaders are respected. The decision to deploy the armed forces to control demonstrations only increases the risk of human rights violations,” Amnesty International published.

The General Secretariat of Communication of the Presidency issued a statement condemning the incidents against journalists and the media, El Comercio said. “We recognize the importance of journalism in keeping the population informed in a truthful and timely manner. Therefore, every act of violence should be criticized and reported to the competent authorities,” the statement reads.

The state of emergency of the Ecuadorian government has a term of 60 days. During this period, the president suspended or limited the exercise of constitutional rights, such as freedom of information, and instituted prior censorship of the media, as explained by G1. So far, however, the only action taken on the basis of the state of emergency has been to send military personnel to contain popular demonstrations.

*Post updated on Oct. 9, 2019 with new statistics.



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