Tag Archives: Ecuador

Connecting corruption and traffic lights

I really like it when experts (and journalists) take a complicated issue and connect it to something John and Jane Doe on Main Street can understand.

And Alejandro Salas, Regional Director for the Americas at Transparency International, has done just that: CPI 2013: TRAFFIC LIGHTS IN THE AMERICAS – LIFESAVERS OR URBAN DECORATIONS?

Salas notes that in Latin America there are some pretty tough traffic laws and really draconian laws against corrupt practices. And yet in most of Latin America a red light is a suggestion to stop rather than a command. Likewise, business and government officials see the need to engage in corrupt practices because, “it is the way to get things done” thus making the anti-corruption laws suggestions rather than anything that should be enforced.

If you look at the Transparency International Corruption Index for 2013, you can see a correlation between corruption and traffic deaths, granted not a perfect 1:1 but enough to draw some useful conclusions.

Country TI Ranking Deaths per 100,000
Canada 9 6.8
United States 19 11.4
Uruguay 19 21.5
Costa Rica 49 12.7
Brazil 72 22.5
Peru 83 15.9
El Salvador 83 21.9
Ecuador 102 27.0
Argentina 106 12.6
Dominican Republic 123 41.7
Honduras 140 18.8
Venezuela                160 37.2

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Filed under Connections, Corruption

CPJ honors Ecuadoran journalist in free press fight

The government of Ecuador — like those of Venezuela and Bolivia — has no great love for an independent and free press.

This week The Committee to Protect Journalists honored television anchor, radio host, and reporter Janet Hinostroza from Ecuador for her work in opposing the government’s efforts to stifle independent media. Also honored with the International Press Freedom Award were  Nguyen Van Hai (Dieu Cay, Vietnam), Nedim Şener (Posta, Turkey), and Bassem Youssef (Capital Broadcast Center, Egypt).

Here is an interview with Hinostroza: Fighting for press freedom in Ecuador

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Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom, South America

ICFJ working to improve journalism in Latin America

Too often too many journalists see government agencies as only the enemy. A place to attack for information.

Hell, I often think that way too. Way too many bureaucrats think that because they have a top-secret clearance (or just access to info that I don’t but need for a story) they have a god-given right to NOT talk to me and not release the information. Even though that information is a.) not classified and b.) the public’s property.

But every now and then a government agency (or two) does the right thing and actually promotes freedom of the press and increased access to government information.

In this case, the US Agency for International Development and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the State Department are promoting all these good things in other countries. It is a good and proper thing they are doing.

Working with the International Center for Journalists, these two US government offices are running a multi-year program — which means it is exempt from the current government shutdown — “to build the capacity of investigative journalists in eight target countries, including Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay.”

  • The participating journalists will attend series of country-specific workshops on digital and mobile security and developing investigative projects beginning later this month.
  • The journalists will also engage in a  four-week online training course on developing transnational investigative reporting projects along with security protocols for editors and reporters.
  • The ICFJ will help provide online resources and access to database sets that are useful for news reports and are searchable in Spanish.
  • Reporters, editors and media owners will get training in sustainability models and strategies so that what they learned will not go to waste. The training will include how to develop a Latin American Investigative Network of journalists and news organizations.
  • Lastly, the reporters will learn new digital research tools that will help them cover specialized topics of interest.

These are excellent countries for this program.

All of the countries suffer from government institutions that are even more hesitant than their USA counterparts to share information. They are in countries where moneyed interests don’t want their secrets revealed and who are often all to ready to pay for thugs to intimidate and kill nosy journalists. They also come from places where the news organizations often spend less on quality journalism training than even the most cash-strapped USA news group.

In the specific cases of Nicaragua and Ecuador, the journalists are facing hostile governments that have a long-distance relationship with the concept of free and independent media. The other countries do not face government intimidation, rather physical dangers come from gangs and thugs.

The US agencies are providing a leg up and a helping hand to the journalists who want to do their jobs properly and who want to hold their governments and business interests accountable to the public. (I know several journalists like this in Honduras. Their biggest problems are intimidation by the gangs. Many also face lack of proper financial and training support from their publishers.)

Rather than shy away from such US government support, American journalism organizations should embrace, encourage and work with these agencies to help improve the quality of journalism in the developing world. Between the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, and the Radio, Television and Digital News Directors there are more than enough qualified journalists with the necessary journalism and language skills to help around the world.

And if the national organizations won’t step up, maybe some local chapters should.

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Filed under Central America, Connections, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, South America

Assange Latin American supporters major free speech violators

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy while his supporters denounce the U.S., the U.K. and Sweden.

Assange’s supporters see him as the champion of free speech and expression and praise Ecuador for “protecting” him. They kinda miss the fact that Ecuador has a horrible record when it comes to freedom of press, speech and expression.

And then came the meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). The organization set up in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela is hardly a bastion of countries that believe in the values Assange and his followers speak of.

Let’s look at the members of ALBA and their press freedom records:

Country

Freedom House Press Freedom Ranking

Freedom House Political Freedom Ranking

Reporters Without Borders Ranking

Antigua and Barbuda Partly Free Free N/A
Bolivia Partly Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems
Cuba Not Free Not Free Very Serious Problem
Dominica Free Free N/A
Ecuador Partly Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems
Nicaragua Partly Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Free Free N/A
Venezuela Not Free Partly Free Noticeable Problems

And for the record, the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden are all ranked as FREE politically and with freedom of the press and expression in the Freedom House rankings.

It is ironic that people are so willing to turn a blind eye to the violations of freedom of press, speech and assembly done by Ecuador if it means sticking their fingers in the eyes of the US and UK. Do any of Assange’s supporters really think that he could get away with what he has done and what he advocates in Ecuador? Venezuela? Cuba?

If they do, then they are just as delusional as those on the right who think the world in only 6,000 years old and that rape victims can’t get pregnant.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Press Freedom, South America

Surprise: Correa is a hypocrite on free expression

So Julian Assange is seeking asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London from sex-crime charges in Sweden.  And, typically, his supporters are singing the praises of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa for protecting Assange and standing up for freedom of expression.

The problem: Correa is hardly a supporter of freedom of expression in his own country.

Maite Rico, a columnist for El Pais in Madrid, wrote about Correa and his move: Correa maneuvers

Ecuador’s government “grants asylum to hacker Julian Assange Australian-and forced into exile director review the Universe, “said the newspaper El Comercio , in reference to the journalist Emilio Palacio, who took refuge in the Embassy of Panama in Quito (and, remember, refused at the time the pass ). “I wish that human rights and freedom of expression that invokes the Government for the respect of asylum without restriction in the country,” says the newspaper Hoy.

And then there is the Committee to Protect Journalists: As it backs Assange, Ecuador stifles expression at home

President Rafael Correa’s press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas, and providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder won’t change the repressive conditions facing Ecuadoran journalists who want to report critically about government policies and practices.

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Filed under Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom, South America

Correa continues campaign against independent media

And people wonder why Ecuador is singled out for its attacks on the media…

Fifth media outlet closed in a two-week period

On 6 June 2012, authorities of the General Intendancy of the Police, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Telecommunications Superintendancy (SUPERTEL) closed down and seized the equipment of radio station Net of the city of Ambato, in the province of Tungurahua in central Ecuador.

Rest of story

The battle for independent media in Ecuador has been going on for some time. President Rafael Correa has used every tool at his disposal to stifle any criticism of his government.

Besides the seizing of equipment — as noted above — Correa has sued publications that are critical of his administration. He won separate libel complaints against executives of the daily El Universo and authors of the book The Big Brother. The appeals courts — packed with Correa supporters — backed up the lower court decision. Even a statement by Correa earlier this year that he would pardon the journalists he sued, did not calm continued concerns for press freedom in the South American country.

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Filed under Censorship, Press Freedom, South America

Things are getting tougher for journalists in Latin America

It took a long time for journalists to feel secure in Latin America. Between the right-wing and left-wing dictatorships and the private hit squads, freedom of press was a delicate thing in the region.

The 1990s were the best years for press freedom.

And then things started to go bad.

The right-wing dictatorships were gone but new “populist” left wing governments started taking over. And these governments saw the “need” to “guide” the media. In some cases — such as Ecuador and Venezuela — the governments just decided free press was not a luxury the country could afford.

Then there were hit squads from narcos and less-than-reputable local businessmen who did not like reporters poking into their affairs.

The annual Press Freedom Index from Freedom House documents the sorry state of press freedom in the region.

The Fragile State of Media Freedom in Latin America

While I disagree with the Freedom House designation of Honduras as having a “Not Free” press, I can understand why some might think so. The attacks on the media here make life dangerous for journalists.  The only problem is that there is no proof that most of the 24 murders of journalists took place to intimidate the journalists.

To be sure, it is a good assumption, but in some cases there is also indications that the dead journalist could also have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. (After all, Honduras has about 20 murders a day.)

Lots of people — mostly on the left — got upset when President Obama focused on the threat to free media from Ecuador in his Press Freedom Day statement. These people said he should have gone after Honduras.

The difference between Honduras and Ecuador is that the government of Ecuador has a concentrated campaign against independent and free media. While the Honduran government does not.

To me, that is a major difference.

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Freedom House Project Director of “Freedom of the Press”  sums up the government situation in Latin America nicely:

[In] Bolivia and Ecuador the state has assumed a growing share of media ownership, following the example of Venezuela, where the government has actively subsidized or opened media outlets and then used them to propagate pro-government messages.

The Freedom House charts show the major deterioration of press freedom takes place mostly in countries aligned with Venezuela. Mexico is the only exception.

Journalists in Mexico — like those in Honduras — don’t face official government threats, but rather threats from weak and corrupt government institutions that cannot or will not properly investigate murders. Or corrupt individuals who turn a blind eye to murders committed by narcos and organized crime.

In neither Mexico nor Honduras does the evidence point to a concentrated campaign against journalists. Rather the weakness of the political and social structures make it nigh impossible for the governments to properly investigate and prosecute the murderers.

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Filed under Central America, Corruption, Killings, Mexico, South America