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Freedom of Expression in Ecuador: The First Right To Go?

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.

6 Responses

  1. Seems to me there is no freedom of speech in America and yet Ecuador is being singled out for supposed freedom of speech towards the Govt.? If freedom of speech is prohibited in any way it is a loss of freedom. Is Ecuador perfect, hell no but I like it a lot better than where I come from. I see a Govt. Trying to make a better life for it’s people rather than trying to cause strife and hatred between it’s classes and races. Ecuador is a much smaller country than the U.S. but seems to be able to find a better presidential candidate with their smaller population? Perhaps they are on the right track if they restrict criticism of the Govt. as what Govt. isn’t criticized? Voice your criticism at the next election but let the elected Govt. do the job the they were elected to do un hampered unless it is a Govt. who is trying to usurp it’s constitution, run illegal guns to other countries, allows it’s military personnel to be murdered etc., etc.. I find Ecuador a far more hospitable environment than back in the U.S…..

  2. Just by the mere fact that you can freely post this shows that there is some semblance of ‘free speech’. Actually, there is very little ‘free speech’ in the so called first world nations. The press is very controlled. In the US the press is owned by a few big corporations. It’s more subtle than Correa, who gets in your face if he doesn’t like it.
    You may not like the Chinese extracting the oil from the rainforest but since it’s there someone is going to get it, like it or not. At least Correa puts this money into public projects, schools, hospitals and infrastructure rather than lining his own pockets.
    As to the import tariffs, maybe you have a better idea how to balance the budget?

  3. Though I still standby that Ecuador is a better country to live that most, I must tell you that Ecuador has ZERO respect for human rights, none, not even a little bit. The judicial system in this country does not respect not even for a single human right. FYI: I have been living in Ecuador for almost 20 years. I have over 12,000 hours of legal education. For example in Loja it has become quite common for the Tribunals to pass sentences for rape, murder, even serial murder where there is NO victim!!!, order for arrest of foreigners that are not even in the country, falsification of testimonies, and the list goes on an on. There is a HUGE drug abuse problem by Judges and assistant District Attorneys, it is common to see judges under the influence of drugs in hearings. What is worse, everyone turns a blind eye to what is going on. The human rights international courts dockers are full, it takes many years to get the courts to hear a case. In Ecuador many years go by before one can get a case heard in the National Court. The problem is not the law, but the psychopathy criminals and drug addicts that run the Ecuadorian Judicial System. The elephant in the room are the psychopathy that run the government, which is 10-25%, a huge number…

  4. I don’t think telling lies on purpose the way Fox News should be protected by freedom of speech anymore than yelling fire in a full theater is protected by free speech. It seems only liars who are conspiring against their own country for the New World Order are permitted to have free speech in America. Ecuador is being singled out because it wants responsible free speech.

  5. Hi Carolina, I completely agree with you that the freedom of expression is one of the most valuable rights one can have in any country, especially our Ecuador. Truthfully I am writing because I was surprised to see the university survey was presented as a viable source of evidence. 50 respondents of the UDA survey cannot be representative of this topic in any faculty or university, let alone a city or country in its entirety. The survey likely only speaks the 18-23 age group, which does not demonstrate the broad views of other demographics.

    I would like to make clear that these words are entirely politically neutral. I think that debates are healthy and the best way to present information and evidence that supports their facts, ideas, and opinions.

    If you have a more in depth investigation I would be very interested to read on the topic further. If you have more information, I would love to receive it at [email protected].

    Estimada Carolina, estoy completamente de acuerdo contigo en que la libertad de expresión es lo más valioso que podemos tener dentro de un país y sobre todo Ecuador como república, la verdad escribo estas líneas porque los datos de la encuesta desde mi forma de ver se encuentran con dos inconvenientes: el primero es que 50 personas encuestadas no se puede considerar una muestra válida ni siquiera dentro de una facultad peor aún de una Universidad y obviamente no de una ciudad o un País, al momento de leer me pareció que refleja un trabajo dentro de una de las materias de la Universidad y segundo simplemente consideraste personas de edades entre los 18 a los 23 me imagino, lo cual no permite una visión amplia de lo que sucede cómo se tuviera con personas de distintas edades

    Quiero ser claro en que estas palabras son completamente neutrales en el área política y que me fascina tener debates y escucharlos cuando las partes poseen información suficiente como para fortalecer sus ideas, de la misma forma los contenidos y artículos de opinión.

    Si posees una investigación más profunda me encantaría leerla si es posible puedes hacermela llegar a mi correo [email protected].

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