Journalists in Ecuador are working in a climate of growing danger, with the press under constant attack, largely by government agents.
EL Comercio and El Universo are the country’s major newspapers, at a time when government functionaries’ attacks on the press are frequent, and an atmosphere of violence hangs over journalists.
The three successive terms of Rafael Correa in 2007-2017 had dramatic effects on press freedom. The ex-president tried constantly to control the media agenda, never hesitating to publicly and personally attack journalistic critics, and launching countless conflicts between the government and the independent press. The presidency of Lenín Moreno in 2017-2021, and the first months of the term of Guillermo Lasso, elected in May 2021, have eased tensions between the government and many privately owned outlets.
The Organic Law on Communication, adopted in 2013, has been turned into a weapon against journalists, used especially to justify dismissals, prosecutions for defamation and fines imposed on reporters.
The Covid-19 crisis hit the press hard in 2020. Many reporters died from the illness while covering the pandemic, which also had a major economic impact. The emergency led to growing difficulty in accessing public information.
Intimidation of reporters and attacks on them – especially during street demonstrations – as well as assaults on TV and radio newsrooms, remain common and have been intensifying since 2019. Government agents are the major aggressors. The 2018 kidnapping and murder of a team of reporters from El Comercio near the Colombian border has traumatized Ecuadoran journalists. The event also raised a number of questions about how to work safely in conflict zones that lie completely outside government control.