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November records most assaults on journalists in Ecuador since Lasso sworn in

Published on December 14, 2021

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Fundamedios and the Fundación Periodistas Sin Cadenas reported the attacks against the press, which reached their highest peak in November 2021.

There were more attacks on Ecuadorian journalists in November 2021, than in any time since Guillermo Lasso became President of the Republic.

Alerts of attacks against the press during November of this year were documented by the Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study (Fundamedios) and the Periodistas Sin Cadenas Foundation. Fundamedios reported 24 attacks, Periodistas Sin Cadenas, 19.

In May 2021, before assuming power, President Guillermo Lasso, constructed a conciliatory speech with the press and promised to defend freedom of expression, which had been strongly affected in the previous 14 years by the governments of Rafael Correa and, in a lesser extent, by Lenín Moreno.

On May 25, President Lasso even sent the Free Expression and Communication Bill to the National Assembly. “Never again be criminal law used to prosecute disputes arising from free expression,” he wrote on Twitter that day. In his government, the authorities would be “committed to a Free Ecuador, where the right to freedom of expression is fully guaranteed,” he said on the social network. It would seem, however, that the speech was just that: words.

Both organizations have found a common denominator in the attacks they have documented: most of them were committed by state officials. Female journalists have received further intimidation and attempts to silence them.

It is not new. Women are not only more attacked outside the newsroom, but also inside. An investigation by the organization Chicas Poderosas Ecuador, made up of journalists, artists, and communicators, determined that the levels of violence against women are high: 2 out of 10 journalists have been physically harassed in their workplaces.

November 2021 figures for attacks on journalists in Ecuador

Fundamedios reports that 24 attacks journalists occurred in November. That includes actions against freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the right of access to information.

Since the organization began its work in 2007, it has documented more than 3,000 attacks on journalists.

The 24 alerts that Fundamedios registered in November, are broken down as follows:

  1. 18 journalists: 12 men and 6 women,
  2. Four media outlets, the Surkuna Rights Protection and Support Center, an organization that defends women’s rights and legally supports them, and
  3. A constitutionalist.

Fundamedios determined that the Ecuadorian State, through its officials, has been the main aggressor. The organization says it is behind 10 of the attacks.

Non-state actors are responsible for the other eight.

The organization established that 5 cases correspond to assaults and attacks, while others correspond to impediments to access public information. And 4 were direct threats. There were 3 attempts at censorship, 3 stigmatizing speeches and a restriction on a digital space.

The provinces with the highest alerts are:

  1. Pichincha, with 61% of the cases.
  2. Bolívar, with 16%,
  3. Cotopaxi, with 11%,
  4. Guayas, with 11%; Y,
  5. Gold, with 5.5%.

The Fundación Periodistas Sin Cadenas, on the other hand, reported 19 attacks on the press. There were 21 victims:

  1. 67% are women, and
  2. 33%, men.

In its report, Pichincha is also the main province where these attacks occur: 7 alerts.

According to the data collected by the organization – a network of Ecuadorian investigative journalists who defend freedom of expression and the guarantee of journalism – there were ten types of aggression:

  1. Prior censorship,
  2. Physical aggression,
  3. Death threat,
  4. Intimidation,
  5. Equipment removal and damage,
  6. Police aggression,
  7. Informational blocking,
  8. Coverage impediment,
  9. Xenophobia, and
  10. Declassification

There are several public officials, or their relatives, who appear to be responsible for the attacks. There is, for example, Assemblyman Esteban Torres, legislator for the Christian Social Party, Josué Narváez, brother of the mayor of Durán and Lorena Brito, president of the Decentralized Autonomous Government of Tumbaco.

Other documented cases in 2021

“If you keep speaking out against the gangs, we are going to kill you and your family. We are the choneros.” That was the direct death threat that the journalist Alexandra Moyano, from the Municipal Radio Latacunga, received at 11 a.m. on November 18 of this year, five days after Ecuador saw the fourth massacre in the Litoral Penitentiary undaunted.

The case, reported by both Fundación Periodistas Sin Cadenas and Fundamedios, is a reflection of the risks to which journalists who actively cover the prison crisis in the country are exposed.

Moyano filed a formal complaint one day after receiving the threat. During the first week, reported Periodistas Sin Cadenas, Moyano received light protection from the National Police that patrolled the vicinity of the radio. In addition, she set up a contact for her to communicate in case of what she needed. She is still waiting for the Salcedo Prosecutor’s Office to summon her to render her version.

The same happened with a journalist, who preferred not to reveal his identity. Men contacted him and told him that they were members of the Los Choneros gang, the most dangerous in the country, and threatened to kill his family if they did not deposit money. Top of FormBottom of Form

Another of the documented attacks is that of Jonathan Quezada, a journalist for the JQ Digital EC medium, who was arbitrarily detained and attacked by the police on November 9th. Quezada tried to register the police attack on a citizen during an eviction in Guaranda, capital of the Andean province of Bolívar. But Colonel Gabriel Paúl Villavicencio Salazar rebuked him and argued with him before the attack. While the policemen surrounded him, according to a video cited by Fundamedios, several people claimed intimidation. “Help the journalist, free him,” shouted a group of women.

“You’re getting a lot into it” was the message that journalist Charlie Castillo, founder and journalist of FerroDiario, received on his Instagram account. It was Josué Narváez, brother of the mayor of Durán, Dalton Narváez, who sent it to him.

According to Castillo, he had uploaded a story on the social network in which he discussed the El Chobo water project, which, according to the official, will benefit more than 500,000 inhabitants. “I was in Dubai on a honeymoon with my wife. In Dubai they do not have a river, it is pure desert. The water is treated from the sea. Do you know what is the average payment for electricity and water by families in Dubai? $600 per month. Imagine, soaring. They come to invent that you are dying of thirst by the river. El Chobo’s water is the purest there can be in the world,” said Narváez.

Castillo told Fundamedios that, in addition to that publication, there was a poll on Facebook, on November 22nd, in which he called on citizens to evaluate the mayor’s performance.

Castillo confronted Josué Narváez and asked if he was threatening him. Narváez said no. “That message seemed very strange to me, I don’t know what it means, if it’s a warning,” Castillo said. “It is a short phrase, but I understand that they are saying to me like ‘stop it’, said Castillo, who has suffered attacks before by the local authorities of Durán.

On November 6, Mayor Narváez rebuked Castillo at the end of an event for criticizing him. A month earlier, in October, he also received a death threat after publishing a story about a cocaine seizure made in Durán. Still, the journalist continues to investigate, question, publish.

There are intimidations and intimidation attempts that have not been reported. Several journalists have opted for silence to protect their work, their lives, and their families in the face of the lack of state guarantees to fulfill their job but, above all, because they seek to continue their investigations.

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