The Office of the Special Rapporteur warns of the impacts of organized crime on journalism and urges the State to protect journalists in Ecuador

25 March 2024

Washington, D.C. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on the State to investigate and punish attacks and attacks against journalists; and to strengthen their security, as well as the protection mechanism in Ecuador.

So far in 2024, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has received information on acts of violence against journalists, press workers, and media outlets in Ecuador. According to reports from civil society organizations, between January and February of this year, around 58 attacks were recorded, most of which were carried out by non-state actors, including organized crime groups through threats, armed attacks and obstructions to journalistic coverage.

The Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur have repeatedly pointed out that these events are part of a context of serious deterioration in citizen security, stability, and democratic governance. In addition, they are part of the internal armed conflict decreed in Ecuador and are mainly due to the actions of criminal groups in the country.

Likewise, these acts perpetrated by organized crime structures affect differently journalists and communicators who work in areas with a strong presence of organized crime and where the conflict with these groups is greater, as well as those who cover issues related to corruption, citizen security and drug trafficking. According to public reports, the growing situation of violence and insecurity has forced several journalists to consider internally displacing or leaving the country, which could have a significant impact on the usual conditions of their work.

Earlier this year, the Office of the Special Rapporteur received information about attacks against journalists by organized crime actors. On 9 January, an armed group broke into the premises of the TC Televisión channel in Guayaquil, issuing death threats to staff during a live broadcast. Journalists and media workers complained to the Office of the Special Rapporteur about the absence of an adequate risk assessment, as well as the lack of progress in investigations and guarantees of protection and non-repetition by state authorities. According to what this Office was able to learn, at least one person from the channel had decided to leave the country for fear of being attacked.

In this regard, the Inter-American Court has emphasized that impunity, understood as the "lack of investigation, prosecution, capture, prosecution and conviction as a whole" favors the chronic repetition of human rights violations. Impunity erodes the trust of victims and their families in state institutions, sends a message of permissiveness towards crimes against the press, and favors the self-censorship of journalists.

In an increasingly complex context for the practice of journalism, the Office of the Special Rapporteur highlights the creation of the Mechanism for the Prevention and Protection of Journalistic Work. This initiative, announced in November 2023, was attended by various state entities, representatives of the media and civil society organizations. The Office of the Special Rapporteur appreciates the efforts initiated by the State, in particular by the Council for the Development and Promotion of Information and Communication, to implement mechanisms to protect journalists, but warns of the uncertainties that still persist, which could affect their effectiveness at a critical time when their operation is especially necessary. The Office of the Special Rapporteur, in its commitment to this initiative, has offered its technical cooperation in the implementation process.

The IACHR and its Special Rapporteur have outlined some guidelines for effective protection mechanisms. Among them, guaranteeing the necessary financial and personnel resources, as well as risk studies with a differentiated perspective through the adoption of protocols; ensuring coordination between the entities responsible for preventing, protecting and procuring justice; and promoting spaces for dialogue between State authorities with journalists, civil society and beneficiaries.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur welcomes the State's signing of the Declarations of Chapultepec and Salta, which promote the principles of freedom of expression.

For all of the foregoing, the Office of the Special Rapporteur calls on the State to investigate the attacks against journalists with due diligence, and to prosecute and punish those responsible. Likewise, this Office urges the State to take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of journalists at risk in the face of the escalation of violence that the country is facing, providing them with the maximum guarantees so that they can carry out their work in a safe environment and without fear of reprisals; as well as to adopt budgetary, political and technical measures that allow the proper functioning of the protection mechanism.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.

No. R061/24

2:06 PM