Press Release — Ecuador: HRF Welcomes Dismissal of Case Against Fundamedios

NEW YORK — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) welcomes the Ecuadorean government’s decision to reverse the dissolution process against Fundamedios, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing freedom of the press.

One month ago, Ecuador’s National Communications Secretariat (SECOM) notified Fundamedios that it would be forcibly dissolved for publishing and promoting “political” content. In light of this decision, HRF calls on Ecuador to guarantee it will not resume its persecution of Fundamedios.

“The moment Rafael Correa became president in 2007, he launched a campaign of persecution against media outlets that were independent of the government. These attacks have ranged from public insults, censorship, arrest of journalists, to criminal defamation lawsuits brought by President Correa himself,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Today, journalists in Ecuador operate under a climate of tension and self-censorship similar to the one they endured under the country’s last military dictatorship in the 1970s. If Ecuador continues on the path toward full authoritarianism, dissent will soon disappear from the national discourse. Even though we celebrate this victory for Fundamedios, the situation for journalism in Ecuador remains alarming,” he added.

On September 8, 2015, SECOM notified Fundamedios that it had initiated an administrative process to dissolve the nonprofit—SECOM’s process follows years of public vitriol and smear campaigns against Fundamedios, many led by President Correa himself during his Saturday television broadcast. SECOM argued that Fundamedios had spread messages, alerts, and essays that were “undoubtedly political and partisan”—in alleged violation of the organization’s bylaws.

In September, after several important figures and international organizations issued messages in support of Fundamedios’s work, SECOM reversed its decision. However, SECOM reiterated the original accusations it had made against Fundamedios, stating that it was ending the proceedings with “a final warning for the organization to respect […] the prohibition of engaging in political action, and avoiding the publication of unfounded alerts whose only goal is to belittle Ecuador’s prestige and institutions.”

“Under general international law, states are obligated to provide ‘guarantees of non-repetition’ to prevent any internationally wrongful act from reoccurring in the future. This customary rule has been applied consistently by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights over the years. We call on Ecuador, as a full member of the inter-American human rights system, to adopt the necessary ‘guarantees of non-repetition’ to ensure that Fundamedios can continue to exercise its activities without government interference,” said Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF. “Ecuador’s competitive-authoritarian regime needs to understand that freedom of expression includes the right of any civil society group to expose corruption and to ‘belittle’ a politician or government institution’s prestige as much as they see fit, without fear of extinction,” he added.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Palden Gyatso, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Jamie Hancock – Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486, jamie@hrf.org

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