Freedom of Expression

Press Release R88/09


PREN R88/09




Washington, D.C., December 31, 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 assault suffered by journalists of the Teleamazonas television network in Ecuador. The Office of the Special Rapporteur cautions that these kinds of assaults poses risks for freedom of expression and, more generally, for citizens’ peaceful coexistence and the strengthening of democracy. It also highlights the fact that Ecuador officials have condemned the reported assault and calls on the authorities to investigate these incidents quickly and effectively, in order to subject those responsible to due trial under the law.


According to the information received, on Tuesday, December 29, 2009, journalist Ana María Cañizares, cameraman Manuel Tumbaco and assistant Francisco Quizno, of the Teleamazonas TV network, where allegedly assaulted while they were driving back towards the network’s headquarters, after covering an event in the National Assembly. According to the information received, the journalists were intercepted by a pick-up truck that cut them off, after which its occupants assaulted the cameraman and his assistant.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State of Ecuador to investigate and clarify this serious act of violence against journalists who work at the Teleamazonas network, acknowledges the condemnation of the assault made by government officials 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.


As the Office of the Rapporteur has stated, 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."