EspañolOn Friday, television network Ecuavisa announced it would not broadcast the government-sponsored campaign, “The Public Speaks to the Media.” The board and network staff believe the campaign is an attempt to discredit the media and journalists.
“Ecuavisa makes this decision in the name of decency. We cannot accept being obliged to broadcast official campaigns aimed at discrediting and insulting journalists, singling them out by their full names, even if there may be a complimentary comment mixed in,” explained news anchor and vice president of the network Alfonso Espinosa de los Monteros during the evening news program Televistazo.
During the announcement, Espinosa noted that he believes the Communications Secretariat of Ecuador (SECOM) is likely worried over the public’s respect towards his career as a journalist.
— Ecuavisa (@ecuavisa) August 2, 2014
The ad campaign that the Ecuadorian central government has attempted to force broadcasters to air consists of purportedly improvised street interviews with citizens, who are asked for their opinion on specific journalists and media outlets.
Espinosa was one of those journalists criticized within those interviews, with one person suggesting the news anchor should retire given his advanced age. In its press statement, Ecuavisa denounced the message and said the news anchor was being “discriminated against due to his age, a violation of the Universal Declarations of Human Rights, the Constitution, and the Organic Law on Communication.”
“Evidently, this campaign has the perverse goal of diminishing, or ending if possible, with contrived statements, a public image cultivated through values,” said Espinsoa, referring to himself and colleagues such as Diego Oquendo, who is also referenced in the campaign.
— Ecuavisa (@ecuavisa) August 2, 2014
In statements to the PanAm Post, former President of Students for Liberty in Latin America Julio Clavijo said “This has been the first defiant act from a network toward the government since the approval of the Organic Law on Communications, created with the objective of controlling and sanctioning the media.”
Clavijo believes Ecuavisa’s decision to refuse the government’s broadcast demands is praiseworthy: “Several media outlets that have been critical of the government have suffered fines, including Teleamazonas and El Universo, among others. [The government] has taken well-known journalists off the air, like Jorge Ortiz, Carlos Vera, and Janet Hinostroza.… Someone has now finally stood up to the government, and with good reason has protested the abuse of power and censorship that has been carried out on a national level. Censorship and fear have been the consequences of the abuses under the Organic Law of Communications.”
In its press statement, Ecuavisa posed the question: “What would happen, [we] ask, if we were to attempt the same exercise, only the other way around, and ask people on the street what comes to mind when they think of the PAIS Alliance [the ruling party] or some high-ranking bureaucrat and then send [the government] their message.”
In addition to the message Ecuavisa delivered during its news broadcast, network executives also sent a letter explaining their position to Fernando Alvarado Espinel, the head of SECOM.
SECOM Ups the Ante on Ecuavisa
Alvarado responded to Ecuavisa’s statements via Twitter, ironically stating that “The opinion of a single person about a journalist does not matter, but when journalists present an opinion, it’s freedom of expression.”
The head of SECOM also announced adjustments to the Organic Law on Communications to continue with the campaign.
Para @ecuavisa el derecho a opinar es exclusivo d sus periodistas. Si un ciudadano se expresa sobre ellos, lo califican d deshonra y vejamen
— Fernando Alvarado Espinel (@FAlvaradoE) August 2, 2014
Meanwhile, the Council of Regulation and Development of Information and Communication (CORDICOM), another government agency, has requested that SECOM immediately suspend all transmissions of the video in which Espinosa is criticized because of his age.
CORDICOM President Patricio Barriga Jaramillo has asked SECOM to not only respect freedom of expression but also to be “aware that liberty must have democratic limits to avoid damaging the rights of individuals.” SECOM announced they will make changes to the campaign in order to proceed with it.
Vicente Ordoñez, president of Ecuador’s National Association of Journalists, also came out in support of Ecuavisa and its decision not to broadcast what he considers a smear campaign.
He added that he believes the government’s video — which names print, radio, and television journalists — is part of a “malicious strategy” to discredit media professionals: “We need to drop the fear and adopt positions of dignity. No more. It’s time to end these abuses,” said Ordoñez.
Mi apoyo a la decisión valiente d @ecuavisa d no prestarse al insulto a quienes honran día a día al periodismo ecuatoriano
— Vicente Ordóñez P. (@vicenteopi) August 2, 2014
“Lets hope that in the near future, more independent media outlets support the Ecuavisa initiative and begin a real defense of freedom of expression in Ecuador,” Clavijo said to the PanAm Post. “It has been hampered for some time now due to the government’s interference in the media, though intimidation and fear, caused by the ‘Censorship Law’ known as the ‘Organic Law on Communications.'”