Ecuador’s National Assembly voted major changes to the country’s communication law Tuesday night, including the elimination of the controversial media watchdog agency Supercom. The new law also made it easier for broadcast media to renew licenses.
Much of the eight-hour debate preceding the vote focused on the allocation and processing of broadcast licenses for radio and television stations. Broadcasters said they were pleased with revisions to rules enacted during the Rafael Correa administration that they called “arbitrary and dictatorial.”
The new law eliminates many of the functions of Supercom (Superintendence of Communication) and assigns others to the Council of Information and Communications (Cordicom). Among the functions eliminated was one that allowed Supercom to fine journalists and media owners for news reporting it deemed “unprofessional” or that constituted “media lynching of public authorities.”
According to Assemblywoman Jeannine Cruz, the elimination of Supercom and its powers over the media was the major accomplishment of the new legislation. “Every professional journalism and human rights agency in the world objected to it [Supercom],” she said. “It was clearly a power grab by a government that wanted to restrict free speech and control the press. I’m happy it’s gone.”
One provision of the revised law requires all news media to have at least 51 percent ownership by Ecuadorian citizens or residents. Another addition allows universities a role in defining standards for social media.
The revised law goes to President Lenin Moreno for possible line-item vetoes and additions.