Under pressure by the government, Ecuadorian newspaper shuts down its print edition – Journalism in the Americas
After 32 years of print publication, the Ecuadorian daily newspaper Hoy announced that it will stop printing, buckling under government policy which many allege intends to cripple independent press. Hoy, known as an opposition publication, will continue with digital publication.
“The gradual loss of freedoms and the limitation of constitutional guarantees that Ecuador suffers, the self-censorship that the Law of Communication imposes and the repeated attacks, direct and indirect, on non-government-controlled press have created for over seven years a setting totally adverse to the development of a newspaper that is diverse, free, independent, and open to different opinions,” said Hoy publisher Jaime Mantilla in an editorial on June 28 which announced the end of the print publication.
He largely blames Ecuador’s Communication Law, adopted in July 2013, for putting the publication in an economic stranglehold by discriminately regulating investment, encouraging a commercial boycott and prompting the cancelation of contracts to print the paper.
The Communication Law is widely seen by journalists a gag law meant to silence voices critical of the Ecuadorian executive. The Committee to Protect Journalists said in 2013 that the law “gives the authorities the power to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press.”
According to President Rafael Correa, the law is meant to ensure that Ecuador has a “good press, true freedom of expression” by combating privatization of the press which he says “wants to convert information into a good,” reported La Tercera.
The law created special agencies to audit, issue sanctions and enforce the Communication Law on media outlets which journalists allege forces the press into self-censorship in order to avoid crippling fines.
Ecuadorian media outlets, including Hoy, were prosecuted under the law accused of censorship for not devoting sufficient coverage to Correa’s visit to Chile where he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Santiago. Correa threatened similar action against publications giving insufficient coverage to a lawsuit involving Chevron Corporation.
Cartoonist Xavier Bonilla was the first person fined under the law after he published an illustration that the Ecuadorian government deemed defamatory. In 2014, Ecuadorian journalist Fernando Villavicencio was sentenced to prison under the law for defaming president Correa.
Correa has long been seen as an opponent of free press in Ecuador with a legacy of attacks against free press.
“This is the final step in the deterioration of freedom of expression in Ecuador during Correa’s administration,” Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator in the Americas for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in 2013.
In 2012, the World Association of News Publishers credited Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa with “a sophisticated strategy to marginalize every voice independent of official authority.”
An Ecuadorian member of parliament formally denounced several media outlets for insufficient coverage of corruption in the National Court of Justice on Monday in an apparent attempt by an opposition member to use the Communication Law against the Correa government.