Freedom of Expression

Press Release 17/15



R 17/15







Washington, D.C., February 25, 2015. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses concern about the threats that Ecuadorian citizen and online user "Crudo Ecuador" received recently after being criticized by high government officials. "Crudo Ecuador" posts satire and criticism through Facebook and Twitter.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the authorities of Ecuador to consider the consequences that stigmatizing statements made by government officials might have on the lives and safety of persons and to act promptly to ensure the safety of the user "Crudo Ecuador".


According to the information available, "Crudo Ecuador" posted an anonymous note he reportedly received with a bouquet of flowers at the house of a relative. The text, which identifies him by name and surname, says: "It is great to have the opportunity to greet and congratulate you for such a beautiful family, your wife (...) and what can I say about your two cute kids, who surely fill your home with joy; with satisfaction I have to confess that it is my pleasure to have you in the beloved province of Guayas, enjoying your well-deserved holidays, which will bring a moment of relaxation, which means a break after so much stress that your ‘not so well-aimed activities’ imply, believe me when I say that you will always have our interest and attention, as long as your bravery lasts..." The words "not so well-aimed activities" where between quotation marks and in bold.


The citizen involved had left his home and only told his intimate family circle where he was. According to the information available, threats have had a chilling effect and "Crudo Ecuador" ceased to publish content on Facebook and Twitter after the harassment. The site manager posted messages on both social networks saying: "Even though I have the desire to continue, my family comes first and I do not want to expose them to this mafia (….) Ok, this is over #YouWon @MashiRafael." Twitter username @MashiRafael corresponds to the account of the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.


Through a number of "Enlace Ciudadano" airings, the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, expressed dissatisfaction with the publication of "Crudo Ecuador", as well as others from users of social networks that insulted him, and urged citizens to help uncover their identity and therefore expose it to the people. He also insisted the population on sending messages through Internet whenever someone posts a new satire, and created a website,, which works as a social network "for citizens to join the fight to end abuses in social networks." The government explained that the creation of this website will "tackle attacks by people that, hidden behind anonymity, are permanent in these virtual spaces."


Regarding to this issue, president Correa said: "We will not allow that a bunch of dishonest malevolent liars dominate us. Everybody sign up on the website and I insist, moreover, you will sign up there and you will receive information when these defamatory campaigns on Twitter and other social networks in general are held. Furthermore, we will receive information. If you know the identity of the one who is insulting and defaming, we will bring him to the ‘Enlace’. Or we will present him on social media, to see if he is still so brave and so jocose as he believes himself to be when out of anonymity."


Subsequently, the user behind "Crudo Ecuador" received several threats on Twitter. On January 27, the Minister of Interior José Serrano filed a formal complaint regarding the threats against "Crudo Ecuador" before the District Attorney of Pichincha [Fiscalía Distrital de Pichincha]. "This Ministry of State has the protection of every human being as a policy, regardless his ideology or political belief," the complaint says according to official information. "(…) I request you to investigate the user or users that have been threatening the integrity of @CrudoEcuador, and I request you to find those responsible for these threats," it adds.


On February 21, during the 412 edition of "Enlace Ciudadano", Correa condemned the threats "Crudo Ecuador" received and made some additional comments. "If there has been an excess, we reject it completely. But the excess has come from elsewhere. And be aware, if what they are telling about a bouquet of flowers, etcetera, is true, it is probably people who want to damage the government," the president said. Correa added that, anyway, the excesses were committed by "Crudo Ecuador" through "defamation" and "lie". "We will continue with this campaign," he said.


The Office of the Special Rapporteur reaffirms the importance of creating a climate of respect and tolerance for all ideas and opinions, and recalls the duty of the State to create the conditions that allow diversity, pluralism and respect for its dissemination, as they are fundamental conditions in any democratic society. This includes the obligation to investigate and properly punish those who use violence to silence communicators or media. Therefore, it urges the authorities of Ecuador to investigate the threats that are being reported by "Crudo Ecuador".


Moreover, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds that "[b]oth the right to freedom of thought and expression and the right to private life protect anonymous speech from government restrictions. Participation in public debate without revealing one’s identity is a normal practice in modern democracies. The protection of anonymous speech is conducive to the participation of individuals in public debate since—by not revealing their identity—they can avoid being subject to unfair retaliation for the exercise of a fundamental right."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.