Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, an ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, called on his Cabinet to boycott private media following a series of corruption allegations.
Ministers won’t give interviews to media outlets that use their “supposed freedom of expression” to influence national politics, Communication Secretary Fernando Alvarado said today. Officials will favor state-controlled media instead, he said.
Correa, a 49-year-old former economics professor, has clashed with the press since taking office in 2007, accusing the media of fomenting political unrest in a country that has seen three publicly-elected presidents overthrown since 1997. El Universo, the Andean country’s biggest-circulation daily, published two articles in the past month alleging misconduct by a government official and Alvarado’s son.
“This is a sad precedent for democracy,” said Carlos Andres Baca, an analyst at the Quito-based political consulting company Politik. “The measure widens the gap between the official version and what could be the counterweight of the independent press even further.”
Correa may also be trying to weaken corruption charges against his government by discrediting the press ahead of presidential elections in February, he said.
Alvarado’s son allegedly has links to a transportation company that took government contracts to distribute fertilizer to local farmers, while Camilo Saman, head of the national development bank, omitted information on his public financial-disclosure report that would have barred him from taking office, according to El Universo.
‘Show of Intolerance’
Attempts to reach Alvarado’s son through the communications secretariat were unsuccessful. Veronica Alvarez, sub-secretary of communication, declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg. Camilo Saman didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment and the CFN’s press office didn’t reply to a telephone message. No charges have been filed against either man.
“The government’s decision to not concede interviews to private media is based on consistency with the political discourse of the president,” Alvarado said, according to a statement published in the president’s official gazette.
Today’s announcement is a “show of intolerance” and will limit citizens’ rights to access public information, Mariela Cevallos, the editor of El Universo’s political section, said in an interview. The newspaper doesn’t plan to change its policies and will continue publishing investigative reports about the government, she said.
“It’s an exaggerated measure,” Cevallos said today by phone from Guayaquil. It “may allow them to hide information. Citizens have the right to be informed.”