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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Ecuador only Latin American country to make CPJ’s 2013 Risk List



Ecuador was the only Latin American country to be featured on the Committee to Project Journalists' annual Risk List, in which the organization highlights countries were press freedoms have been in decline.

Ecuador earned its place on the list after implementing “wide-ranging, vague legislation that gives the government extensive powers to stifle dissent” with the adoption of its new Communications Law, which gives the government broad powers of censorship.

According to CPJ, the list, which was released this week, "takes into account press freedom indicators such as journalist fatalities and imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile. Those places on the Risk List are not the worst press freedom offenders, but rather spots where CPJ documented the most significant deterioration of the media climate during 2013."

The Ecuadorian National Assembly approved the new law intended to regulate editorial content in June. The law gives authorities the right to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press and it’s enforced by a state watchdog loyal to President Rafael Correa.

“The law mandates a state watchdog to monitor media content, and is filled with ambiguous language demanding that journalists provide accurate and balanced information or face civil or criminal penalties,” said CPJ of the law.

In its report, CPJ quoted Monica Almeida, editor at Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, saying that the atmosphere is much worse because of the law.

“Before, there was a level of control by the government … but they did not have this legal framework like the Communications Law which allows them to do many things in their favor.”

Earlier in the year, a law preventing news media from promoting political candidates “directly or indirectly” 90 days before an election led to self-censorship among the media. Many saw the law as a way for Correa to stifle comments that put him in a negative light before his re-election bid in February.

Other countries listed in CPJ's Risk List this year were Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Vietnam, Liberia, Russia, Turkey and Zambia, all nominal democracies with a rapidly shrinking space for free expression and independent newsgathering. 



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