Fundamedios, an Ecuadorian organization that defends freedom of expression, is now the one in need of defense, as it faces state-mandated closure. On Tuesday, September 8, its directors reported that they had received a letter from the National Communications Secretariat (Secom), which informed them of the beginning “of the dissolution process” against the institution.
The Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of the Media (Fundamedios) was created in 2007 as a platform of support for journalists. It has since monitored and reported on threats to freedom of speech, press, and association in Ecuador, where heavy handed president Rafael Correa does not like dissident or opposition media.
However, for Secom, Fundamedios has engaged in what they describe as partisan political activities, by sharing content from two blogs with political analysis: State of Propaganda, by the journalist Roberto Aguilar; and Common Sense, which belongs to journalist José Hernandez.
Thus, Secom’s statement asserts that the organization has “failed to comply with Articles 6 and 9 of its current statutes,” as well as “the provisions of [Fundamedios’] Article 37.”
Article 6 of Fundamedios’ statute stipulates that “the Foundation as such may not get involved in political, racial, labor, trade unions, and religious issues.”
Meanwhile, Article 9 states that the institution “is a non-governmental organization with a social character, born as an initiative of professionals and citizens, to promote the dissemination of social development, in all areas … in the media.”
In addition, Secom’s letter alleges that Fundamedios has violated the “second, penultimate, and final clauses defined in Article 22, formerly Article 26, of the Regulation of the Unified Information System for Social Organizations.”
This regulation, also known as Decree 16, stipulates that deviations from the objectives and purposes for which a social organization was constituted are grounds for dissolution.
Finally, Secom announced that Fundamedios had 10 days to exercise the right to defense, and to present the “exculpatory evidence it deems appropriate in this administrative process.”
According to César Ricaurte, executive director of the organization, the legal process that Secom has started against Fundamedios has “no rhyme or reason.”
In an interview with Quito newspaper El Comercio, Ricaurte argued that the regulatory agency is not making a distinction between partisan politics and political journalism.