Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ecuador: Media/Communication Law, a project which is restrictive of freedoms

Back on November 2009, this blog reported the debate over the final draft of the Communications Bill delivered to the National Assembly by the legislative committee responsible for its production. The Law project aroused the rejection of media and news organizations for being deficient and for blocking crucial freedoms.

This week the Ecuadorian papers once again retake the topic. El Comercio newspaper reports that, Catalina Botero, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Organization of American States, conducted an analysis of the project for the second debate. She informs that “there has been progress in comparison to the text presented to the first legislative debate last December”. However, she believes that there are certain matters that are contrary to the American Convention on Human Rights.

According to the news, the most important matters are: the right of reply, compulsory licensing of journalists, the prerequisites for information, the conscience clause, the confidentiality of the source, possible censorship by the state, upon others. The law also establish monetary penalties, the suspension of business up to 30 days and even permanent closure. In addition, the project addresses that the news should be handled only by professionals journalist or licensed social communicators.

The newspaper also mentions that this is not the first complaint received by the Communications Act proposal from an international body. It refers to the Human Rights Watch which also sent a letter to President of the Assembly, Fernando Cordero, to warn of gaps in the legal project. One of the issues that the organization addresses is that by (the law) requiring the information being ‘genuine’ and ‘verifiable’, this could become a cause for censorship. In addition, the compulsory licensing is raised as being an attempted threat to international treaties as well as the system of sanctions (which is said to be broad and general).

El Universo newspaper also mentions all of the above but going further and publishing a list of critical points made by the Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States.

Fernando Cordero announced that the draft media/communication law will be discussed in September, when the assembly returns from holidays.

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