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Ecuador: a cautionary tale for media regulators

An article by Anya Schiffrin in Policy Syndicate considers that for more than a decade, Ecuadorian journalists have increasingly felt the effects of repressive media and speech laws that were supposedly enacted in the "public interest”. As other countries consider regulations to combat misinformation, the public and policymakers must understand how even well-meaning efforts can go badly wrong, she says. In 2015, the government managed to pass a constitutional amendment re-categorising communications as a public service, like water or electricity, thereby allowing for more state control over speech. “And with the stated goal of ensuring ‘balanced media coverage’, then President Rafael Correa pushed through the 2013 Ecuadorian Communication Law, and enacted additional regulations allowing the government to crack down on journalists with fines, forced public apologies, and even prison sentences.” Schiffrin writes that with the spread of disinformation online fueling distrust of the media and other institutions, regulations to police some kinds of speech may seem like a good idea. “Clearly, major distribution platforms like Facebook need to be more heavily regulated. But, in some cases, laws enacted in the ‘public interest’ can actually work against it. And at the same time, laws meant to support legitimate journalism usually offer only scant protection against those who are determined to act in bad faith… From speaking to Ecuadorian journalists, it is clear that most of Correa’s media policies and enforcement practices crossed the line into outright censorship. News outlets that did not provide ample coverage of government statements were fined, as were outlets that did not recirculate foreign press reports that were favourable to the government or critical of opposition figures. On some occasions, news outlets were even forced to print or air lengthy dissenting statements from government officials who disliked their treatment in the media.” Full article here.

  • Thursday, 26 April 2018

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