Ecuador: From Correa to Moreno. The impact of the Organic Law for Communication on financial journalism

The Republic of Ecuador is currently struggling against a dense financial crisis[1]. The ongoing fiscal setback has been confirmed by government officials. Richard Martínez, Minister of Economic Affairs, stated on Thursday November 29, 2018 that the country´s fiscal unbalance is unsustainable[2]. How easy is it to talk about a monetary crisis in Ecuador? Do media groups feel comfortable as `financial overseers´ seeking accountability? This article intends to show that financial reporting in the Republic of Ecuador is truncated and shaped by the government through regulations such as the `Organic Law for Communication´ (OLC) implemented since 2013.

The government of Rafael Correa (former President) implemented authoritarian measures that affected the media, the economyand the interrelation between both. After Correa, since Lenin Moreno assumed the Presidency in 2017, there has been a positive shift in terms of government intervention and freedom of speech.

Correa was the Minister of Economy and Finances and president of UNASUR before becoming President of the Republic. He was a member of the Alianza País left-wing party. Lenin Moreno is as well part of Alianza País after being a teacher linked to several leftist movements in Ecuador (such as Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionariaand Acción Popular Revolucionaria).

Initially, the OLC was developed to foster freedom of press, advocate for citizens’ rights and avoid abuse by powerful mediatic groups that controlled the flow of information[3]. However, this Communication Law brought dramatic consequences for Ecuadorian media in terms of economic sanctions and content regulation[4].

For instance, the OLC imposes sanctions to any media group who neglects to present information of public interest, where the definition and parameters of `public interest´ are given by the State[5]. These types of measures completely disarticulate the way in which journalism usually works. The identification of news values,framing dynamics or expert-seeking[6]characteristics of the journalistic practice are set aside by the OLC, since it is the State who has authority to decide what is relevant and what is not. Even if it might be a fair point that the `old way´ of producing news is not perfect, leaving the editorial decision-making issues in the hands of the State seems quite dangerous as well.

Correa´s government did not use only economic sanctions in order to constrain media groups. The OLC also forces private television channels to oftenly cut their own signal in order to transmit the government´s official position on financial, social and environmental issues[7].Any type television reportage on monetary matters was then shaped by Correa´s perspective, and if there were any opposing views wishing to be presented, the government could always impose fines.

Journalists seem to be aware of the OLC´s impact. In a study concerning professional autonomy levels for journalists in Ecuador[8], several reporters stated that the biggest constraint for them to work properly were government regulations. Thus, how can any independent financial reporting be done if State regulations and constraints can always shape how information is presented and sanction any attempt of independence? The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) has already reported cases in Ecuador where journalists have decided to remain silent instead of being critical towards the government[9].These reports might lead to further investigation involving the United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Citizens also appear to be conscious about what is going on. Journalistic credibility levels in Ecuador have gone down, mostly due to political influence[10].Journalists and citizens, therefore, seem to agree with the fact that government regulations and political matters are affecting the communications field. How to increase credibility levels in a country where propaganda and government views can openly affect journalism?

In this complicated panorama, where communication channels seem to be contaminated, are there any other possibilities for independent financial reporting? Alternativemediacould be seen in this case as a way to challenge the tainted discourse of mainstream outlets[11]. However, alternative media groups are still waiting for the promised change and democratization that the OLC was supposed to bring (such as more media diversity and resources for emerging media groups)[12]. The implemented Communication Law ended up bringing more censorship instead of more openness for new media alternatives.

[1]Infobae, R. (2018). Ecuador muy cerca de pedir un salvataje al Fondo Monetario para enfrentar crisis. Infobae. [online] Available at: https://www.infobae.com/america/america-latina/2018/11/26/ecuador-muy-cerca-de-pedir-un-salvataje-al-fondo-monetario-para-enfrentar-la-crisis/[Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

Vásquez, I. (2018). Ecuador camino a Argentina. El Comercio, Perú. [online] Available at: https://elcomercio.pe/opinion/mirada-de-fondo/ecuador-camino-argentina-ian-vasquez-noticia-576955  [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

[2]Vistazo, R. (2018). Martínez explica que PROFORMA busca corregir desequilibrio fiscal. Vistazo. [online] Available at: https://www.vistazo.com/seccion/pais/politica-nacional/martinez-explica-que-proforma-busca-corregir-desequilibrio-fiscal[Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

Sputnik, R. (2018). El ministro de Economía de Ecuador, Richard Martínez, afirmó que el país enfrenta una situación fiscal insostenible. Sputnik. [online] Available at: https://mundo.sputniknews.com/economia/201811301083804780-proforma-presupuestaria-ecuador/[Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

El Telégrafo, R. (2018). Ministro de Economía: “Enfrentamos situación fiscal insostenible.” El Telégrafo, Ecuador. [online] Available at: https://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/economia/4/martinez-economia-presupuesto2019[Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

[3]Chavero, P. (2015). Intervención del Estado en comunicación: políticas públicas para la democratización de la comunicación. Aproximación al caso de Ecuador. ALCANCE Revista Cubana de Información y Comunicación. 4;(8)

[4]Ibid.

[5]Alegría, A. (2016). La ley orgánica de comunicación de Ecuador, ¿Un avance en el ejercicio efectivo de las libertades de expresión e información y en la participación ciudadana? UNED Revista Derecho Político. 95;( Jan – Apr), 291 – 326.

[6]Allan, S. (2010). Making news, reporting truths. In: Allan, S., News Culture. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill Education. 70 – 93.

[7]Alegría, A. (2016). La ley orgánica de comunicación de Ecuador, ¿Un avance en el ejercicio efectivo de las libertades de expresión e información y en la participación ciudadana? UNED Revista Derecho Político. 95;( Jan – Apr), 291 – 326.

[8]Oller, M., Chavero, P. & Ortenga, E. (2016). La percepción de los niveles de autonomía profesional de los periodistas en Ecuador. Anuario Electrónico de Estudios en Comunicación Social “Disertaciones”. 9(1), 61 – 83.

[9]Benarroch, E. (2018). La libertad de prensa en Ecuador a escrutinio internacional. La Vanguardia[online]. Available at: https://www.lavanguardia.com/vida/20180318/441653833817/la-libertad-de-prensa-en-ecuador-a-escrutinio-internacional.html[Accessed 05 Dec. 2018].

[10]Odriozola, J. & Rodrigo, I. (2017). Hacia un periodismo de calidad en Ecuador: perspectivas de periodistas y audiencia. Cuadernos.info, 41, 175 – 192.

[11]Harcup, T. (2003). `The Unspoken – Said´: The journalism of alternative media. Journalism. 4(3), 356 – 376.

[12]Robles, R. (2017). Prensa alternativa exige democratizar los medios. HISPANTV [online]. Available at: https://www.hispantv.com/noticias/ecuador/351009/prensa-alternativa-medios-comunicacion[Accessed 05 Dec. 2018].

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