Ecuador: Why are critics being shutdown on Twitter?

Diana Amores’ Twitter account is currently suspended (@Diana_Amores). Is she a troll? Is she sending offensive pictures? No, she’s a translator based in Quito, Ecuador, with a tendency to post sarcastic comments about politics.

Diana is being targeted by Ares Rights, an internet reputation management company based in Barcelona. The trouble started earlier this year when she was being critical about the Ecuadorean government. Ares Rights filed complaints, claiming copyright violations and shut her down.

Why is a Spanish company concerned about what is being said about the Ecuadorean government? If you look at the individual complaints (and we have), Ares Rights has filed them on behalf of, variously, Ecuador’s governing party, Movimiento Alianza País; EcuadorTV (the state-run television station;) and even the president, Rafael Correa. The company has had various Twitter accounts suspended and documentaries pulled from YouTube. They have also targeted Buzzfeed and Chilling Effects, who wrote about Ares Rights specifically.

Is this an attempt by the state to silence critics? You can read the full, in-depth story here, from the last issue of Index on Censorship Magazine.

Diana’s latest Twitter suspension is on account of reports of “violent threats”. This is one of her alleged violent threats (translated from Spanish): “Today I received a notification of censorship from @Twitter and @Aresrights.” She included a screengrab of an email she received from Twitter saying AresRights had raised a copyright complaint. Again, it claimed to be filing this on behalf of Movimiento Alianza País (Correa’s party). This doesn’t prove they are contracted, but neither party have responded to Index’s call for clarification for our recent feature.

On Wednesday, there was an opposition march in Quito. Diana wanted to tweet from it. She couldn’t.

At the march, protesters held up a message to the government: “We are not afraid anymore”. President Correa has been accused of trying to intimidate critics. He has successfully pursued several libel lawsuits against the media since introducing his controversial communications law in 2013.

One of the early targets was a political cartoonist, Bonil. His newspaper, El Universo, was fined $92,000 over one of his cartoons. Now, 11 months on, Bonil is currently responding to a new complaint and fearing an even bigger fine.

You can read Bonil’s story – with a new cartoon by him highlighting the censorship of cartoonists – in the next issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

This article was published on 21 November 2014 at

Ecuador: President Correa calls newspaper editor “wicked” in new verbal attack

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has personally attacked Gustavo Cortez, editor of the leading daily newspaper El Universo. During a TV broadcast on Saturday the President accused the newspaper editor of being “wicked” and “of having bad faith.” Whilst showing a photograph of the editor, Correa called on the people of Ecuador to remember Cortez as a “clear example of the bad press in the country.”

Correa pardon does not lessen chill on Ecuador’s free press

When Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa issued Monday a presidential pardon and forgave a multi-million dollar fine and prison terms for a former editorial writer and three owners of the Ecuadorean daily, El Universo,  the impact of the case on press freedom was already irreversible.  The accusations left an indelible mark on anyone’s desire to challenge  President Correa on his presidential duties.

The presidential pardon also benefitted two book authors who had been accused by Correa in a civil libel case that sought $1 million dollars in damages,  charging the writers with defamation for an investigation on alleged suspicions that President Correa’s brother engaged in corrupt practices linked to government-issued contracts.  Both the book authors, Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita, and El Universo publishers and editor, were dragged through the Ecuadorian legal system for months, facing a formidable government campaign.

Correa’s announcement came as Ecuador had to show up  at a special hearing before the Organization of American States legal body, The Inter American Human Rights Court.  In early February the Court issued a request asking Correa to stop the sentence against the daily and the other journalists.

El Universo replied that it had to review the presidential pardon to respond accordingly. The presidential pardon only erased the sentences from the record but not the legal edict issued by the National Justice Court, which remains on the books as a legal precedent. This factor, according to several international  press freedom organisations, could lead to future actions against the press.

As it is often the case in causes célèbres, public opinion forgot the content of the editorial that unleashed the Ecuadorean President’s unhappiness. In it, the editorial director, Emilio Palacio, wrote that Correa´s decision to have government forces fire against a civilian hospital during a police uprising in 2010 could lead to future accusations of crimes of less humanity.

El Universo is an 89-year-old daily that was known for its centrist positions.  Its long-time publisher died in 2002 and three of his sons, Oscar, Nicolas and Cesar Perez took over the leadership of the daily.  Emilio Palacios, who worked at the daily remained  in charge of the editorial page.  Emilio Palacio is the brother of former Ecuadoran President Alfredo Palacio, who was in office from 2005 to 2007.  Correa was Alfredo Palacio´s Minister of Finance, but he resigned after a year, because of disagreements over the economic policies of Palacios.

Panama: Ecuadoran newspaper publisher offered asylum

Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli offered asylum to Ecuadoran publisher Carlos Pérez Barriga, one of the owners of the El Universo newspaper. Last week Pérez was sentenced to three years in prison and 26m GBP in fines for defaming Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa. Emilio Palacio, the journalist who penned the editorial that provoked Correa’s libel complaint, has sought asylum in the US. Pérez’s brothers — who are co-owners — are also currently in the United States and reportedly fear returning to Ecuador.