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Ecuador: Quality Control of the Media

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has had a rough relationship with the media and journalists in that country. It may become even rougher after, according to the newspaper La Hora [es], his government has plans for the Law for the Socialization of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. In addition to restrictions on types of advertisement, the law calls for at least 15 minutes daily and up to 70 minutes weekly to be provided to the state on public and private channels and stations [es] (registration required). Critics are especially worried since this is coming at time with elections on the horizon.

The proposal, which would be implemented by the National Council of Radio and Television [es] (CONARTEL for its initials in Spanish) also calls for the creation of committees of “users,” which will have the right to complain and have a say in the on-air programming. There is also talk that these committees can participate in the “process of formulation, implementation and evaluation of programs for the formulation and orientation directed to critical education for the media” and all of this is aimed at the responsibility on the part of the media and journalists.

After the report from the newspaper, CONARTEL came out to deny that such a proposal exists [es]. Regardless of the claims by the newspaper and the government, this has opened the debate about the quality of journalism in the country and their role in the political spectrum.

There are some bloggers who think that the media needs some regulation, such as Muluncayense of Mi Diario Relativo [es] has a very negative view of journalists saying that it is not a real profession. He also cites an incident where the Ecuadorian television channels had presented information inaccurately about a crime that affected a personal friend of his. Details vary and two or three newspapers present different description of a single event and in general, false information.

However, Ruben Dario Buitrón thinks that far too often the media has too close of a relationship with powerful interests [es]. Finally, he defends his trade which has been criticized, and in particular, the area of investigative journalism [es]:

Se equivocan quienes piensan que el periodista de investigación es una suerte de detective, policía o investigador privado. Pero también se equivocan quienes piensan que el papel de la prensa es acusar, sentenciar, condenar, encarcelar.

Those who think that investigative journalism is a kind of detective work, police or private investigation, are wrong. But they are also wrong those who think that the role of the press is to accuse, adjudicate, convict, and incarcerate.

Ricardo Vasconcellos of Desde mi Trinchera [es] provides evidence how journalists in Ecuador have a problem not only with presenting only one side of the news, but also how they have been minimized by Correa's government:

Responsabilizar al periodismo de tener un pacto con el pasado para obstaculizar la labor del régimen no ha sido todo. Correa ha imputado irresponsablemente a los periodistas no alineados con la “Revolución Ciudadana” la comisión de un delito de muy graves repercusiones: terrorismo.

La última vez que insultó a los periodistas fue en la sesión solemne por los 184 años de la independencia de Portoviejo. Según El Diario de esa ciudad del 25 de junio de este año “En tono molesto el presidente de la república Rafael Correa dijo (..) que el accionar del gobierno ha sido transparente y pidió a los asistentes no dejarse llevar por ciertos periodistas a los que calificó de terroristas”.

To say that journalism is responsible for having a pact with the past to place obstacles in the way of the government is not everything. Correa has irresponsibly blamed the journalists not aligned with the “Citizen's Revolution” with the charge with serious repercussions: terrorism.

The last time that he insulted journalists was in the solemn ceremony celebrating 184 years of the independence of Portoviejo. According to the (newspaper) El Diario of that city on June 25, 2008, “In a very bothered tone, the country's president Rafael Correa said (..) that his government has been transparent and asked those in attendance to not be led astray by some journalists who he described as terrorists.”

Whether or not a law for responsibility in the media is presented, the relationship between journalists and the government will continue to be a topic of discussion for Ecuadorian bloggers.

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