Freedom of Expression




Washington, D.C., October 1, 2009—The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern regarding the growing wave of attacks against media outlets and journalists in Ecuador, and calls on the authorities to investigate these incidents. It cautions that the creation of an atmosphere of intolerance and social polarization poses risks for freedom of expression and, more generally, for citizens’ peaceful coexistence and the strengthening of democracy.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur has received information about the serious assault suffered by the TeleSUR television network’s correspondent in Ecuador, Elena Rodríguez. The journalist was attacked in Quito on the evening of Wednesday, September 16, by persons that are allegedly opposed to the current government, when she was driving her own vehicle. According to the information received, the assailants struck her with the butt of a revolver, forced her out of the vehicle, and kicked her on the ground, causing trauma to her head and bruising all over her body. Rodríguez said the attack was related to her profession, since the next day she found a note in her car that accused her of working for the government of President Rafael Correa and indicated that "next time you won’t be spared."


The Office of the Rapporteur has also been informed about the serious attacks suffered by journalist Rafael Castro and cameraman Jorge Cabezas of the program En busca de respuestas ("In Search of Answers"), which is broadcast by the Ecuador TV station. The two men were severely beaten on Thursday, September 24, allegedly by students who were protesting during demonstrations organized by the teachers union in the city of Guayaquil. Others who were also severely attacked during the protests were cameraman Mauricio Cerón, of the television station Ecuavisa; photojournalist César Muñoz of the newspaper Diario Hoy; and a journalist with State-run media outlets who requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State of Ecuador to investigate and clarify the serious acts of violence recorded against journalists and calls on the authorities to promote a culture of respect for diversity of thought and to abstain from making statements that could in any way foster a climate of social intolerance.


Moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur received information on the threats received by several journalists, including Yamila Murillo Zaldúa, of Diario Correo, in the locality of Machala, and Aquiles Arismendi, of Radio La Voz de su Amigo, in the city of Esmeraldas.


As the Office of the Rapporteur has stated on numerous occasions, diversity, pluralism, and respect for the dissemination of all ideas and opinions is a necessary condition for the functioning of any democratic society. Therefore, the authorities must work resolutely to help build a climate of tolerance and respect in which everyone can express his or her thoughts and opinions without fear of being attacked, punished, or stigmatized for doing so. Moreover, the State’s duty to create conditions that allow for the free circulation of all ideas or opinions includes the obligation to investigate and adequately punish those who use violence to silence members of the media or media outlets.   



In this regard, the Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states that the "murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats against social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media, violates the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restricts freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation".