Ecuadorian communications law concerns CJFE and other rights groups

Thursday, August 1, 2013

His Excellency Dr. Andres Teran-Parral, Ambassador of Ecuador to Canada
Embassy of Ecuador in Canada
99 Bank Street, Suite 230
Ottawa, Ontario
K1P 6B9

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

As a part of the worldwide community of freedom of expression defenders and promoters, and members of the IFEX network, we write to you today to express our profound concern over the recently approved Ecuadorian Communications Law. Both Dr. Catalina Botero and Dr. Frank La Rue, Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and opinion for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations respectively, have commented on the law.

The Rapporteurs note, in essence, that the Communications Law (recently approved by the Ecuadorian National Assembly) significantly fails to meet international standards that protect the fundamental human right to freedom of expression, and places serious restrictions on the enjoyment of this essential right required for the establishment of a genuinely democratic society.

Dr. Frank LaRue specifically notes that: "This law establishes censorship mechanisms, including the creation of an Information and Communications Superintendence, with the clear objective of limiting the degree to which journalists can express opinions regarding relevant events, public policies and government officials in the country. Officials may agree or disagree with comments made by the press and they have the same right as any other person to respond to those comments, but they must not at any time hinder or censor comments they do not agree with, nor may they limit the press freedom that prevails in all democratic societies. The previously mentioned mechanisms are unacceptable as they constitute violations of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights."

For her part, Dr. Catalina Botero notes the following in communications to the Honourable Chancellor Mr. Ricardo Patiño: "The burdensome regulation imposed on all communications media - press, radio, television, subscription-based audio and video, as well as those media whose content can be created or reproduced via the Internet - is based on the notion that the exercise of freedom of expression through any medium is a public service. In this sense, as it is understood as a public service, the State assumes exorbitant powers to regulate the exercise of the fundamental right to express oneself freely through any medium that a person chooses. (. . .) The law creates a rigorous regulatory framework that imposes scores of obligations applicable to all media and journalists. It authorizes the administrative bodies to control and intervene in the content of those media; it establishes considerably vague liabilities and grounds for administrative infractions, and grants a public servant - elected by an administrative body from a short list of candidates sent by the President of the Republic - the authority to oversee compliance with the law, implement it, and impose the respective penalties."

We know that Ecuador has traditionally respected and promoted the defence of human rights as a signatory to the principal international human rights instruments of both the United Nations and the Inter-American System. As such, we ask the Ecuadorian government to consider submitting a request for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to provide a Consultative Opinion addressing the compatibility of the law with standards developed based on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

We believe this Consultative Opinion could be decisive in providing legitimacy to the Communications Law, which is currently in doubt.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Committee to Protect Journalists
Fundamedios - Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad
Association for Civil Rights
Association of Caribbean Media Workers
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública
Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala - CERIGUA
Derechos Digitales
Espacio Público
Foro de Periodismo Argentino
Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP
Freedom House
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression - Turkey
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela
Inter American Press Association
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
National Press Association
Norwegian PEN
Observatorio Latinoamericano para la Libertad de Expresión - OLA
Pacific Islands News Association
Pakistan Press Foundation
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
PEN International
West African Journalists Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters – AMARC
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC ALC
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee

CC: Ms. Pamela O’Donnell, Ambassador of Canada to the Republic of Ecuador
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs