Photo by Jennifer Moo.
“No man is good enough to govern another man without the other’s consent.” — Abraham Lincoln
Freedom of expression is closely linked to the rights to freedom of thought, freedom of assembly, the right to individual or collective property, the right to protection against arbitrary interference on private life, and several others. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is essential in democratic societies.
International human rights organizations have expressed concern for Ecuador due to the clear, blatant and systematic violations to our freedom of expression, and the freedom to obtain and transmit information through our media.
According to President Rafael Correa, Ecuadorians “oppose the government every day and publish what they want. This is the greatest proof that there is freedom of expression and freedom of the press in the country because without this freedom of the press, how can it be read every day in the front page that there is no freedom of the press?” The problem with this logic is that it fails to express the consequences of these acts of “freedom” in Ecuador. There have been several cases of citizens who have had to apologize publicly to the president to avoid being punished for expressing opinions, either verbally or in writing, that the government did not agree with. One such case is that of cartoonist Xavier Bonilla, known as Bonil, who had to change the caption of one of his works after a clear complaint presented by the government. Or the case of “@crudoecuador” whose Twitter account was suspended and its creator allegedly harassed due to comments about the government.
Fifty students at Universidad del Azuay in Cuenca recently took a poll. They were asked if they believed they could express themselves freely if asked to speak about their thoughts on the current government. These were the results:
- 7.5% said they felt safe expressing their thoughts on the government
- 26% said they felt unsure about expressing their thoughts on the government
- 66.5% said they felt unsafe about expressing their thoughts on the government
We deserve to know how the government is working and where our money is going. When it comes to decisions like selling a third of our Amazon Rainforest to Chinese oil companies or adding taxes to aspects of daily life, we should be informed and play a role in the decision-making process. We certainly deserve to have the liberty to know what is going on politically and economically, just as much as we deserve to be able to spend our own money to purchase goods from anywhere we like without being forced to pay an exorbitant amount of money in taxes, such as the ones that have been recently established.
The people of Ecuador are not looking to be violent or to stand against their government in rebellion. We are looking to be heard — not just listened to, but actually heard. We feel that the president we chose has a responsibility to our country, to allow it to grow without stepping all over its citizens, and to learn from the mistakes of countries such as Venezuela. After all, a leader becomes a leader to serve the people — not to stand against them or compete with them, challenging them to rebellion and stripping them of their rights.