Ecuador - TV station in open conflict with President could be stripped of its frequency



    MONTREAL, June 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders urges the
government and National Council for Radio and Television (Conartel) to
withdraw the latest administrative proceedings against the privately-owned
national TV station Teleamazonas, which could force it off the air. The
offensive comes amid a war of nerves between the station and President Rafael
Correa, who has said he wants to "put an end" to news media he regards as
"corrupt" and "mediocre."
    "President Correa has had to face very harsh criticism from the
privately-owned media since he first took office, but his desire to punish
them for this violates the very principle of press freedom," Reporters Without
Borders said. "This is the unfortunate backdrop to the three proceedings
brought against Teleamazonas."
    The press freedom organisation added: "If the final objective is to
withdraw the station's broadcast frequency, it will in no way solve the
problem of 'false information' decried by the president, and will never
eliminate the criticism, fair or unfair, to which all governments are exposed.
It could even fuel more radical polarisation beyond the reach of the media's
filtering."
    The latest administrative proceedings against Teleamazonas got the green
light from Conartel chairman Antonio Garcia on 9 June. The station has already
been punished once, but this time it could be silenced for good.
    The proceedings are in response to a recent Teleamazonas report about the
environmental consequences of a project by the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA in
the southwestern Gulf of Guayaquil. The issue was already raised by the daily
El Universo, which is also in the president's sights. Teleamazonas has said it
will refer the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
    The first case brought by Conartel against Teleamazonas, for broadcasting
a bullfight at a peak viewing time, resulted in the imposition of a modest
fine of 20 dollars in April. The station's appeal was rejected on 3 June.
    A second case was brought against the station in May because it reported
the existence of a "clandestine" vote-counting centre and the possibility of
fraud after the 26 April general elections. In this case, it faces the
possibility of a three-month suspension under a provision of the radio and TV
broadcasting law that punishes "reports based on presumption, liable to cause
harm or to cause social or public disorder."
    The situation is all the more delicate as an independent report by
experts that was submitted to President Correa on 18 May accuses Conartel of
serious irregularities in the allocation of broadcast frequencies, to the
detriment of community media.
    Correa, who takes over the rotating presidency of the Union of South
American Nations (UNASUR) in July, has meanwhile proposed the creation of a
UNASUR body to defend citizens and governments against press abuses.
    Although the proposal has little chance of being approved, it has been
backed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is himself trying to silence
the privately-owned Venezuelan TV station Globovision (see 29 May press
release).




For further information:

For further information: Christine Poyle, Assistant of the Executive
Director, Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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