Ledy Zúñiga Rocha
Ministra de Justicia, Derechos Humanos y Cultos
Ramiro Rivadeneira Silva
Defensor del Pueblo
Ministro del Interior
Dear Madam and Sirs,
Ecuador has been a member of the United Nations Organization since June 26, 1945, and is committed to fulfill the obligations under the various international instruments it has signed and ratified, among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and their Additional Protocols.
Bearing in mind that the safety of journalists and the struggle against impunity for their killers are essential to preserve the fundamental right to freedom of expression, it is necessary to take into account the importance of their work, essential to the preservation of all rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly the freedom of expression, enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Freedom of expression is an individual right, for which no one should be killed, but it is also a collective right, which empowers populations through facilitating dialogue, participation and democracy, and thereby makes autonomous and sustainable development possible.
The United Nation’s Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity was approved on December 18, 2013. This document points out that in recent years there has been disquieting evidence of the scale and the number of attacks against the physical safety of journalists and media workers, as well as of incidents affecting their ability to exercise freedom of expression by threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access, and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them. The General Assembly invited the agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations to work with Member States such as Ecuador, so that journalists and media workers can exercise their profession freely and safely, both in conflict and non-conflict areas, with a view to strengthen peace, democracy and development.
Journalists fulfill a broad mandate to gather information and disseminate it publicly through the press, radio or television. When performing their function, not all of them are defenders of human rights. Many journalists, however, act as such when, for example, they report abuses and acts they have witnessed, which are often sensitive issues that may put their lives at risk by the fact of sharing highly relevant information; so that there must be a minimum commitment by the State at all times to, first and foremost, protect their physical integrity and their journalistic activity.
It is necessary to specify that the aforementioned resolution urges Member States to make every effort to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, ensure accountability through impartial, prompt and effective investigations into all allegations of violence against journalists and media workers that fall within their jurisdiction, bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice and provide the victims with the possibility of adequate legal remedies.
We respectfully remind you that on September 13, 2013, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations for the Protection and Promotion of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission Human Rights of the OAS issued a «Joint Declaration on violence against journalists and media workers in the context of social protest», ratifying the States’ obligations on this issue.
Some of the attacks against journalists recorded by our organization are:
• David Castillo, journalist and correspondent for the newspaper La Hora, on 1 and 2 October 2012, in the locality of Huaquillas – in the southern border of Ecuador – and the renowned investigative journalist Juan Carlos Calderón, received death threats after the publication of newspaper articles. In the first case, a story related to the arrest of an alleged hit man, while in the second case, because of the dissemination of an investigation related to the alleged mismanagement of the State’s reinsurance programs, through digital magazine Plan V.
• Diego Cornejo, journalist and executive director of the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors, AEDEP, on 12 May 2013, was threatened by an unidentified man who, according to Cornejo, said he was defending President Rafael Correa, while walking through a park in northern Quito.
• Xavier Bonilla, caricaturist known as «Bonil», on 11 April 2013, reported that he had received threats through social networks. This took place after President Rafael Correa discredited the caricaturist during his Saturday broadcast No. 310.
• On 20 May 2013, Ecuavisa TV station’s news team was physically attacked while attempting to record the testimonies of unsatisfied users of the medicine delivery system in the Carlos Andrade Marín public hospital, in the city of Quito.
• Hubel and Alcibiades Onofre, correspondents for two TV stations that were seized by the State, Gama and TC Televisión, on Tuesday 17 January 2012, were verbally attacked and threatened by unidentified persons in the city of Babahoyo (304 Km from Quito). The brothers attributed this to the publication of a story that romantically linked a woman accused of being the mastermind of a triple murder, to Patriotic Society member of the Assembly Galo Lara.
• Felipe Jurado and Mario Crespo, cameramen for the State operated media outlet, Ecuador TV, on 22 May 2011, were physically attacked and their equipment destroyed, while covering a police operation to control the sale of alcoholic beverages in the city of Guayaquil. Julio César Quiñónez, police commissioner, told Fundamedios that a subject, who has been fully identified, took and destroyed Crespo’s camera and his cell phone, owned by the station.
• Byron Baldeón, 1 July 2012. The freelance journalist who worked for the newspaper Extra and the rural weekly paper Impacto, in the town of El Triunfo, was shot in the head nine times and killed by unidentified men, near his home located in this town, 61 km from the coastal city of Guayaquil. The crime occurred after the journalist monitored the robbery of a container loaded with televisions, which led to the capture of three policemen on active duty and two civilians, in May 2011.
• Luis Arnoldo Ruiz, known as «Noro». On 3 September 2012, the Police found the journalist’s body, who had been killed by a bullet to the head. The journalist, who worked as a correspondent for the newspapers Extra and Expreso in the locality of Playas, located 97 km from Guayaquil, had been reported missing since the beginning of the week.
• Journalist Fausto Valdiviezo, was killed by unidentified persons on 11 April 2013 in the city of Guayaquil. Witnesses revealed to the press that the 53 year old journalist was attacked by three hooded persons who shot him several times hitting him twice in the chest and one side of his body.
• Christian Zurita, journalist for the newspaper El Universo, on 16 July 2015, was a victim of physical and verbal aggressions as he was insulted, pushed, kicked and spat at. Government supporters attacked him while covering a protest in the historic center of the capital against Mauricio Rodas, mayor of Quito. This was the second time the journalist was attacked. On 18 April 2013, Zurita was also physically attacked by provincial prosecutor Simón Lara Grueso in the border town of Esmeraldas – located 318 km north of Quito – while covering the trial of one of the accused in the drug trafficking case known as «Resurgir».
The organizations we represent demand that you, as the national authorities responsible for the safety and the rights and freedoms of all citizens, begin the necessary actions to ensure that the different attacks against journalists do not remain unpunished. The Ecuadorian State has the obligation to respect and guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens, and is therefore responsible of providing guarantees and protection to journalists for the full exercise of their profession.
Thank you for your attention.
César Antonio Ricaurte Pérez
Diego Cornejo Menacho
Special Rapporteur for the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
Inter American Commission on Human Rights
UN Resident Coordinator
UNDP Resident Representative -Ecuador