Civil society reports decrease in freedom of expression violations in 2017

An upcoming referendum

As reported on the Monitor, in November 2017 the president of Ecuador launched a public consultation to amend the constitution. Recently, the president decided that a referendum will take place on 4th February 2018 allowing citizens to decide certain changes to the constitution. Issues on the referendum could include political rights of individuals convicted of corruption; restrictions on the number of terms a president can serve; restructuring of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control; and the prohibition on mining of minerals in protected areas and urban centres. On 3rd January 2018, political and social organisations started campaigns on the referendum in different locations in Ecuador. It is predicted that tensions may arise between supporters and opponents of the referendum in the near future.

Expression

On 6th and 14th December 2017, respectively, two media outlets (LaRepublica.ec and Radio Equinoccioreceived emails from the legal firm Traders Consultants Company requesting them to delete information regarding John Polit, who is currently on trial for involvement in the Odebrecht corruption case. In its request to Radio Equinoccio, the legal firm gave a ten-day deadline to delete notes provided by the News Agency of Ecuador, AgenciAne, about the judicial investigation of Polit and his son. However, after making the requests public, Carlos Polit called LaRepublica denying any connections with the Traders Consultants Company legal firm and its actions.

According to local organisation Fundamedios annual report released on 27th December 2017, there were 297 attacks on freedom of expression in Ecuador during 2017. In November and December 2017, for example, there were 25 violations reported, mainly related to digital rights. It is the first year since 2008 that there was a recorded reduction in the number of attacks, a 40 percent decrease compared to the cases reported in 2016 (491 cases). The reported noted that the number of violations started decreasing when President Moreno took power. 

Peaceful Assembly

As reported previously on the Monitor, the campaign - "Amnistía Primero” (Amnesty First) - was organised to petition the government to release activists and human rights defenders currently in prison, many for exercising their right to protest. The president has granted several pardons, and recently on 19th December 2017, the National Assembly of Ecuador granted the first of the 207 amnesties requested by Confederación de Nacionalidades Índígenas de Ecuador (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador). The vote resulted in the unanimous approval to pardon indigenous leader Anastacio Pichisaca, who was prosecuted for blocking roads during protests in the province of Cañar in July 2015.