Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The First Casualty in Ecuador’s War on the Free Press

Rafael Correa has claimed his first scalp in his effort to silence all criticism of his government. The country’s only newsmagazine, Vanguardia, which frequently opposed Correa, has ceased publication
The owner said the country’s contentious new news media law had killed the magazine by creating restrictions that threatened to strangle a free press. The magazine’s last issue, due out on July 1, never appeared in print. 
President Rafael Correa, whose government was often the subject of critical coverage in the magazine, gloated over the corpse, saying it had starved to death: no one read it, he said, and the money ran out.
The former workers blame both the government, for censorship, and the magazine’s owner, for giving in.
“It’s illogical to think that you have to quit instead of fight,” said Mr. Calderón, 50, Vanguardia’s editor. “This reflects fear, and it reflects impotence.” 
Santiago Preckler, 72, a copy editor who worked at the magazine for almost all of the eight years of its existence, was more blunt. Yes, he said, the new law would make it much harder to publish hard-hitting journalism, but the owner’s decision to silence the magazine was the wrong response. 
“He’s a coward,” Mr. Preckler said.
A brief look at the law’s provisions show what the magazine would have had to face (and what surviving publications will be facing in coming years):.
Beyond penalties for publishing or broadcasting material that harms a person’s reputation or honor, the law prohibits something called media lynching, which it defines as the publication of material intended to reduce someone’s prestige or credibility. 
It also sets restrictions on the coverage of court cases, creates government bodies with wide powers to regulate and penalize journalists, and bans the publication of personal communications, including e-mails and conversations.

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