CIVICUS

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Ecuador

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Last updated on 20.03.2019 at 08:09

Ecuador Overview

For ten years, the government of Rafael Correa created a hostile environment for journalists and civil society activists and organisations, including the frequent stigmatization and persecution of journalists. This situation is improving since Lenin Moreno was elected President in April 2017.

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Civil society reports decrease in freedom of expression violations in 2018

Civil society reports decrease in freedom of expression violations in 2018

According to the annual report of local organisation Fundamedios, attacks on freedom of expression in Ecuador decreased by 52 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year.

Expression

According to the annual report of local organisation Fundamedios, attacks on freedom of expression in Ecuador decreased by 52 per cent in 2018 compared to the previous year. From January to December 2018 the organisation recorded 144 attacks, while in 2017 the organisation documented 297 cases. 

According to Fundamedios, since President Lenin Moreno took office in May 2017, decisions have been taken to "strengthen a transition from an authoritarian model to an open democracy.” However, some freedom of expression violations continue to take place, such as the prosecution of critics of public officials, internet censorship and attacks from alleged supporters of former President Rafael Correa toward journalists.

The report states that the State continued to be the main perpetrator targeting the press in 2018 using administrative, legislative and judicial measures. However, it highlights that attacks are being perpetrated mainly by public officials and local authorities and not by the central government as in the past. 

In December 2018, the National Assembly approved reforms to the Ley Orgánica de Comunicación (Organic Law of Communication, LOC). Daniel Barragan, Executive Director of the International Centre for Research on the Environment and Territory (CIIAT) at Universidad de Los Hemisferios, stated that the reform was partially vetoed by the president, but some significant changes remained. Barragan said that the new law: 

"[I]mply a change of the logic of its predecessor: communication is no longer considered a public service but a right, the right to freedom of expression is conceptually broadened, media control is eliminated and self-regulation is promoted, the figure of media lynching– which criminalised the repeated dissemination of information aimed at discrediting or destroying someone’s credibility - is repealed, and administrative sanctions are eliminated, among other things."

In addition, the Superintendency of Information and Communication (Supercom), which implemented 706 sanctioning processes against journalists, critics and media outlets between October 2013 and March 2018, was eliminated.

The Confederación de Nacionalidades Índígenas de Ecuador, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) issued a public statement rejecting the approved reform due to last minute changes promoted by economic groups and representatives of the communication monopolies which will affect community media and the democratisation of communications. 

In February 2019, Ecuador signed the Declaration of Chapultepec. This declaration was adopted in 1994 by the Hemispheric Conference on Free Speech. It contains ten fundamental principles necessary for a free press to perform its essential role in a democracy.

Association

On 8th March 2019, the indigenous Shuar Arutam community in southern Ecuador filed a protective action against the Panantza-San Carlos open pit copper mine development project in Morona Santiago as the community was not properly consulted prior to the implementation of the project. The Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) and the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana, CONFENIAE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon) supported this action.

Association in Ecuador

CSO operations in Ecuador were governed by Executive Decree No. 16 of 2013, which granted the government wide discretion to deny applications or dissolve organisations.

CSO operations in Ecuador were governed by Executive Decree No. 16 of 2013, which granted the government wide discretion to deny applications or dissolve organisations on grounds such as moving away from their stated aims or objectives or compromising public peace or state security. A pending draft Law on Non-Profit Organisations aims to improve the regulatory framework and eliminate arbitrary provisions permitted by executive decree.

Peaceful Assembly in Ecuador

The freedom of peaceful assembly is constitutionally enshrined in Ecuador but no specific law regulates public gatherings.

The freedom of peaceful assembly is constitutionally enshrined in Ecuador but no specific law regulates public gatherings. The use of public spaces is regulated at the municipal level and municipalities typically require advance notice of demonstrations, while spontaneous protests are punishable with fines and even imprisonment. Anti-government protestors have been subjected to criminal prosecution for participating in demonstrations, especially indigenous activists challenging mining projects. After Moreno was elected as President, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de Ecuador (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), started a civic campaign - "Amnistía Primero” (Amnesty First) - to petition the government to release activists and human rights defenders currently in prison. Since then, several activists have been pardoned.

Expression in Ecuador

The freedom of expression has been undermined in Ecuador by restrictive legislation as well as attacks and intimidation against media and journalists by both state and non-state actors.

The freedom of expression has been undermined in Ecuador by restrictive legislation as well as attacks and intimidation against media and journalists by both state and non-state actors. However, according to the local organisation Fundamedios, the number of violations began to decrease when President Moreno took power with 297 attacks on freedom of expression in Ecuador during 2017, a 40 percent decrease compared to the number of cases reported in 2016.

The 2013 Organic Law on Communications, widely criticised as inconsistent with international human rights law is currently in the process of being amended in the National Assembly. 

Additionally, compliance with the 2004 Organic Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information appears to be low. However, an active transparency monitoring mechanism was implemented in 2018.