Periodistas Sin Cadenas, Voces del Sur, Red Leal and IFEX-ALC strongly condemn the serious press freedom and freedom of expression violations that have taken place recently in Ecuador. As a result of these violations, two journalists have been forced into exile within the first few months of 2023.
Fundamedios has documented 90 instances of aggressive actions against journalists and media outlets between the beginning of the year and 24 April. The cases include eight attempts to assassinate journalists in just three months, versus seven such actions in all of 2022.
In parallel, Periodistas Sin Cadenas documented a total of 92 cases of aggressive actions against the media between January and March 2023, in comparison with a total of 41 in the same period in 2022. In other words, according to information obtained by the organisation, the numbers of actions against journalists have for all intents and purposes doubled in the first few months of 2023 relative to the previous year.
The government’s failure to provide protection has resulted in a hostile environment in which organised crime groups and other criminal elements directly target Ecuadorian journalists. The announcement that journalist Karol Noroña, a reporter for the GK news website, had left the country in March after receiving death threats led to public consternation and made evident the vulnerability of press workers. This has not been an isolated case, as little after another one came to light. The identity of the person at the center the case remains anonymous in order to protect their safety. We do know, however, that they have endured 8 months of death threats.
The second case evolved just weeks after Karol Noroña’s sudden departure from the country. Noroña was in charge of covering organised crime and issues surrounding the crisis in Ecuador’s prison system. These cases serve as examples of the government’s failure to effectively protect the media and provide guarantees for the freedom and safety of those who practice journalism.
A delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently visited Ecuador to verify the deteriorating press situation. In meetings with authorities, the delegation highlighted the degree to which the lack of security in the country specifically impacts the work of journalists.
CPJ program director Carlos Martínez and senior consultant for Latin America Carlos Lauría indicated that journalists are not just another victim of the insecurity in the country, rather they are directly targeted by organised crime groups. This has been proven by the events of the last few weeks.
In meetings with CPJ and Fundamedios, the government committed to assigning resources to the Mechanism for Protection of Victims and Witnesses. The Public Prosecutor’s Office noted that it would seek civil society support in increasing awareness of threats against journalists.
The dialogue, however, comes up short in the face of the weakened security situation media workers have to endure. Furthermore, this situation could carry important consequences for citizens’ rights to access and share information, and it could be translated into a weakening of democratic institutions.
The signatories urgently call on Ecuadorian authorities to establish protocols for effective action in cases in which journalists’ lives are at risk. We believe it is urgent to implement security measures to protect targeted journalists and at the same time maintain robust communication with them.
We urgently call for training to be undertaken regarding the risks journalists have to face, and we urge the government to immediately honour the commitments it has made to address the situation.