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Ecuador: Government Suspends Television Channel Teleamazonas

On December 22, the Ecuadorian television channel Teleamazonas was taken off the air by the Superintendent of Telecommunications [es], under a provisional suspension of 72 hours. Teleamazonas is a channel that has been characterized as one that does not follow the official governmental line. During those 3 years, it has maintained strong discrepancies with President Rafael Correa's regime, which has called many times for the closing of the television channel.

The Superintendent of Telecommunications justified the channel's closing because of the events of May 22, 2009, when it spread news based on assumptions regarding the exploitation of gas on the Puná Island that will affect the residents of the island, who make a living in the fishing industry. According to the Superintendent, upon spreading the news, Teleamazonas violated Article 18, Number 1 of the current Constitution that establishes the right of all persons to “look for, receive, exchange, produce and spread true, verified, timely, diverse, uncensored facts, events, and general interest processes is and with ulterior responsibility.”

Soon after, there were voices of protest from different sectors in Ecuador, which are also planning marches and protests against the measure. For many, it is an attack on freedom of expression. This recent event is also relevant just as the members of the National Congress are debating the new Communications Law, which was made known after dissolving a previous agreement between assembly members from the governmental party and opposition.

There are also online opinions for and against the government measure. For many, the closing of the television channel is a clear attack on free press and it also becomes an intimidating act. For Xica of the blog La Alharaca [es]:

Por más de que el gobierno ecuatoriano haya decidido sacar del aire a Teleamazonas por solo 3 días, esto es suficiente para enviar un fuerte mensaje a los demás medios y a los asambleístas: podemos cerrar un medio y no necesitamos la ley de comunicación para hacerlo.

For as much as the Ecuadorian government has decided to take Teleamazonas off the air for only 3 days, it is enough to send a strong message to other media and to the members of the assembly: we can close a media channel and we do not need a media law to do so.

The editorial line of Teleamazonas, which is against the government, also has its detractors, and many news anchorman Jorge Ortiz as its visible head, which always makes biting comments against the government. In addition, the fact that the channel is own by banker Fidel Egas also places public speculation about impartiality and information bias. In regards to this, Eduardo Varas of the blog Más Libros, Autores y Otros Riesgos [es] writes:

Aplaudir que sea el Ejecutivo el llamado a prohibir opiniones o a definir lo que es o no una profesión es un acto de lo crueles que confunden todo y no les importa. Todos debemos tener la libertad de decir lo que quisiéramos, así seamos un medio con todo el dinero del mundo y con un dueño que se crea el portador de la verdad, o un presidente que también se crea dueño a la verdad, o un gil como yo, o giles que celebran lo cierres de medios como maniobras justas. Todos.

To applaud that it is the Executive branch that calls to prohibit opinions or define what or what is not a profession is a cruel act that confuses everything and it is not important to them. All of us should have the freedom to say what we want, if we are a media outlet with all of the money in the world and with an owner who thinks of himself as the conveyor of truth, or a president who also thinks of himself as the owner of the truth, or an idiot like me, or idiots that celebrate the closing of media channels as fair maneuvers. All of us.

The suspension is already finalized and it yet to see if this will affect the new Communication Law that is currently being debate in the National Congress.

Translation by Eduardo Ávila

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