The President of Ecuador Rafael Correa has come under increasing fire internationally for his perceived moves against free speech in the country.
Correa has sued El Universo and other newspapers claiming libel and created new media laws to greater increase the scope of the state media apparatus. President Correa claims that he is trying to put the herd on a sensational private industry with a political agenda.
Ironically, one of the new laws Correa championed would seem to benefit his own political career as he prepares for a reelection campaign in 2013.
The National Assembly passed a law last month that placed severe restrictions on what journalists can cover about candidates. Correa defends the action on the grounds that he doesn’t want the media to ally with political campaigns and hold too much sway over political matters.
During Correa’s time in office, state-run media has expanded from one station to fifteen. Worrisome indeed.
Latin America has a lengthy history of autocratic rule and I’m afraid Correa is the next autocrat. When a political figure moves to control the dissemination of the written word, he is violating the key democratic principle of freedom of the press.
Without the freedom of words and ideas, politicians themselves become illegitimate strongmen, relying on the resources of the state to ensure their rule.