In a reversal of his earlier position, President Guillermo Lasso has partially vetoed the Communication Law passed in July by the National Assembly. Earlier, he said he would apply a total veto to the law which would have prevented it from being reconsidered for at least a year. Under a partial veto, his changes will require a two-thirds vote of the Assembly to be overridden.
According the presidential press office, Lasso is confident that the Assembly does not have the 92 votes necessary to override his changes. The original legislation passed with 75 votes.
Lasso’s changes affect about 90% of the law promoted by the anti-government Correismo and Social Christian blocs of the Assembly. According to Government Minister Francisco Jimenez, the changes focus on censorship, allocation of broadcast frequencies, and criminal liability for journalists and editors. “We already have laws to protect citizens from defamation and don’t need more that place restrictions on freedom of expression,” he said.
In his comments following passage of the law, Lasso called it a “gag rule” that attempted to reinstate a law passed during the Rafael Correa government. That law was subsequently repealed.
Following Tuesday’s announcement of the partial veto, two associations of journalists expressed frustration, saying that Lasso allowed several “objectionable” provisions to remain in the law. Although the Ecuadorian Broadcasting Association said it was generally pleased with the president’s changes, it said that it “did not correct all the attacks on free speech.” It also said it was still possible that proponents of the law could muster the 92 votes for an override.
In the announcement of the partial veto, Lasso’s press office said his objections fell into two categories, “constitutional violations and matters of preference.” In a statement, the office said that 18 of Lasso’s revisions will be submitted to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on their legality. “If the language in the original legislation was unconstitutional, as the president believes, the revisions would be moot since no change would be necessary.”
In addition to eliminating sanctions against journalists who “disseminate incorrect and inaccurate information” Lasso also objected to a provision defining the allocation of radio and television broadcast frequencies based on a formula of “33% public, 33% private, and 34% community.”
According to his office, Lasso will “explain in full” his partial veto Wednesday at the University of the Arts in Guayaquil.