International human rights officials concerned about free expression violations in Ecuador


On 3rd November, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Edison Lanza released a joint statement expressing concern about the effects of the 2013 Organic Communications Act on the freedom of expression in Ecuador. The special rapporteurs requested information on the application of the law by the Communications Superintendence (Supercom), which is considered to be insufficiently independent from the Executive. They also expressed concern about the cases of newspapers El Universo and La Hora, which have been forced to publish information favourable to the government and have suffered disproportionate economic sanctions. The rapporteurs also questioned the ongoing auction to grant and renew a massive section of the radio spectrum as insufficiently transparent, particularly at a time when presidential and congressional elections are scheduled for February 2017.

On 4th November, the government officially rejected the rapporteurs' statement and denounced it as a 'manipulation of human rights procedures.' Four days later, Superintendent Carlos Ochoa himself gave a press conference and rebutted the rapporteurs' analysis while calling on them to 'assume the role for which they were designated, which is to defend freedom of expression as a collective right and not as a mere apparatus in defence of the economic structure and political power that permits the formation of media monopolies and oligopolies in the region and the world.'

In a separate development, over 20 civil society organisations have submitted reports on the human rights situation to the UN's Universal Periodical Review (UPR) of Ecuador due to take place in May 2017. CIVICUS, the Ecuadorian Newspapers Association and the Citizenship and Development Foundation made a joint submission in which they examine Ecuador’s fulfilment of its commitments regarding the rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression since its previous UPR examination in May 2012. The submission finds that the government of Ecuador fully complied with 20% of previous recommendations, partly fulfilled 10% and made no progress on the fulfilment of 70%.

Peaceful Assembly

On 18th November, a peaceful demonstration was held in Quito in opposition to Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Ecuador. The demonstration was violently suppressed by the police in front of the National Assembly. Among the worst hit groups of demonstrators was a delegation of the Women's Defenders Front of Pachamama. The visit of the Chinese President was also opposed by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador who viewed it as an expression of the advances of an extractivist model that is consolidating Ecuador's role as a commodity supplier and its dependence on the world's main industrial power.