Civil society reports decrease in freedom of expression violations in 2018

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criminalised the repeated dissemination of information aimed at discrediting or destroying someone’s credibility - is repealed, and administrative sanctions are eliminated, among other things."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.