HRW’s review of human rights issues in Ecuador

Posted on October 12, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Human Rights Latin America

UN Rights Body Should Press Ecuador to Address Police Abuses, Free Speech

I. Summary

The administration of President Rafael Correa has expanded state control over media and civil society and abused its power to harass, intimidate, and punish critics. Other concerns include limited judicial independence, poor prison conditions, and women’s and girls’ limited access to reproductive health care due to fear of prosecution. The government has failed to implement recommendations it had accepted during the 2012 UPR of Ecuador on all these issues.

Freedom of Expression
During the 2012 UPR of Ecuador, the government accepted recommendations to “repeal all legal provisions that contravene” free speech, “guarantee in all circumstances the independence of the media,” “eliminate criminal defamation provisions,” and “protect the right to freedom of expression of journalists.”

In 2013, President Correa signed a communications law that gives the government broad powers to limit free speech. The law requires all information disseminated by media to be “verified” and “precise,” opening the door to censorship by allowing the government to decide what information meets these vague criteria. It also prohibits “media lynching,” defined as “repeatedly disseminating information with the purpose of discrediting or harming the reputation of a person or entity.” In addition, it prohibits what it terms “censorship,” which, under the law’s definition, includes the failure of private media outlets to cover issues that the government considers to be of “public interest.”

The Superintendency of Information and Communication (SUPERCOM), a government regulatory body created by the 2013 Communications Law, has in dozens of cases ordered media outlets and journalists to “correct” or retract reports, including opinion pieces and cartoons, or publicly apologize for their content. SUPERCOM has also accused outlets of engaging in “censorship” by not publishing information officials deemed important.

The Correa administration repeatedly used the Communications Law to order media outlets to publish information favorable to the government and to transmit official broadcasts responding to unfavorable news coverage. In July 2016, for example, the Communications Ministry ordered the TV channel Ecuavisa to transmit a thirty-minute official broadcast at the time when an investigative program was scheduled to air a report criticizing the government’s use of public funds to create audiovisual materials in support of government policies. Ecuavisa was able to air part of the investigative program in the time that was left; it published the rest only online.


Criminal defamation remains a concern, despite a 2014 legal reform narrowing the crime’s definition. In June 2016, President Correa brought a defamation complaint against the vice mayor of Quito, for saying, in a radio interview, that President Correa manipulated the justice system to send money abroad without paying taxes. In September, the vice mayor was sentenced to 15 days in prison.

Efforts to exploit U.S. copyright law to secure the immediate removal of content critical of the government from Youtube and other major content providers are recurrent—and most often successful. The president, his political party and its members, state media outlets, and state agencies all have filed requests to remove images and documents from the Internet. Users sometimes manage to restore content, but only after a legal process that can take weeks. Read Article

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