Authorities and Protesters Target the Press Amid Protests in Ecuador

Demonstrators clash with riot police in Quito, as thousands march against Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno’s decision to slash fuel subsidies, on October 9, 2019. – Unions and other groups alongside thousands of farmers and indigenous people are expected in the streets of the capital Quito. Protests and clashes erupted in Ecuador a week ago, after the government doubled fuel prices as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund to obtain loans despite its high public debt. (Photo by Rodrigo BUENDIA / AFP)

HAVANA TIMES — The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on both the authorities and demonstrators in Ecuador to stop harassing and attacking journalists covering ongoing protests.

As protests against the Ecuadoran government’s move to end fuel subsidies enter their seventh day, journalists and media outlets continue to be targets of violence and attacks from the authorities and protesters, according to local media. As of October 8, Fundamedios, an Ecuadoran press freedom organization, had documented 59 violations against the press, including detentions, threats, and acts of violence.

Violence against journalists and press workers came from both the security forces -as CPJ documented on October 4- and from protesters and members of unions, social movements, and indigenous groups participating in the demonstrations, according to a joint statement by several Ecuadoran human rights organizations, including the Regional Foundation of Human Rights Consultancy (Fundación Regional de Asesoría en Derechos Humanos, or INREDH), the Ecuadorean Commission on Human Rights (Comisión Ecuatoriana de Derechos Humanos), the Observatory of Rights and Justice (ODJ Ecuador), and Fundamedios. Several journalists and outlets reported on Twitter that violence from protesters had prevented them from covering events, including foreign outlets such as Noticias Caracol, from Colombia.

“As events in Ecuador develop, it is of vital importance that authorities make sure that journalists can cover the demonstrations freely and without harm or retaliation from security forces, government officials, or demonstrators,” said CPJ South and Central America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick in New York. “Groups participating in or policing the protests must understand the fundamental role that journalists play in reporting these events, and refrain from preventing or in any way obstructing the work of the press.”

Among the violations against journalists and media outlets covering the protests:

On October 4, Leyda Angulo, a correspondent for Radio Olímpica, and Geovanny Astudillo, a correspondent for TV Cisne, were detained by police while covering protest in Nueva Loja, according to INREDH. They were released without charge after several hours, according to reports by local media and Fundamedios posted on Twitter.

Jacqueline Rodas, a reporter for Ecuavisa, said in an October 7 tweet that she had been prevented by indigenous communities participating in the protest from covering the event taking place in the Arbolito park in Quito: “They see a camera and they attack you,” she stated. Also that day, several radio and television stations went off the air in Tungurahua, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo, after indigenous leaders took over their antennas located in the Pilisurco hill, according to Fundamedios.

On October 8, police detained Camila Martínez, who was working as a correspondent in Guayaquil for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), during a protest taking place in the Urdaneta sector in Guayaquil, Apawki Castro, communications director for CONAIE, told CPJ. Martínez was charged with a misdemeanor for having “mistreated, insulted or assaulted” a police agent, and sentenced to five days in prison, according to Martínez’s lawyer Abraham Aguirre, who spoke over the phone with CPJ. Aguirre confirmed to CPJ that Martínez remains detained at the Urdaneta Regiment, in Guayaquil.

Also on October 8, the National Police and the Prosecutor’s Office raided the offices of radio station Pichincha Universal, on charges of “inciting discord against citizens,” according to a statement posted by the outlet on Twitter. The station, which belongs to the Pichincha Prefecture, is currently held by a member of the political party Alianza PAIS, which opposes President Lenín Moreno and supports the demonstrations, according to Fundamedios.

CPJ called the Ecuadoran National Police and the Prosecutor’s Office for comment, but no one answered the phone.



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