President Guillermo Lasso signed a revised communication law Friday, claiming it protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press from government interference. “This legislation guarantees the free circulation of ideas on the internet and in the media without bureaucratic restrictions and oversight,” he said. “It outlaws the gag orders of prior censorship and prevents a return to the unconstitutional restrictions of the previous law,” he added, referring to language included in the original National Assembly legislation that was thrown out by the Constitutional Court.
According to constitutional experts, the law represents a political victory for Lasso against the Correista Union of Hope delegation of the National Assembly that aimed to restore government media oversight applied during the Rafael Correa presidency. “With the help of the court, the president was able to throw Correa’s 2013 communication law in the trash can of history,” said San Francisco University-Quito law professor Manolo Goya.
The new law allows “self regulation” of the media as long as libel and slander laws are not violated. “The media will in no case be subject to regulations imposed by the State,” the new law reads. It continues: “The State will guarantee the exercise of free and responsible journalism and provide comprehensive security for communication workers and their families if necessary.”
In the case of internet outlets, the new law forbids the regulation of “personal expressions and opinions contained on social networks and channels.”
The law eliminates the Correista plan to require the national Ombudsman’s Office to review news and social media commentary and impose penalties based on “violations of responsible standards to protect the dignity and reputations of the public.” It also mandates that courts respect international treaties and conventions regarding freedom of the media.
The new law establishes a Council for the Development and Promotion of Information and Communication to protect communication workers whose news gathering and reporting put them risk from drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal mining and human trafficking interests, among others.
The law strengthens the prohibition of the publication and dissemination of images of minors and victims of gender-based violence that allows them to be identified but permits the identification of people of legal age involved in criminal matters.
According to Goya, Lasso needed the court ruling against the Correista provisions of the draft legislation to claim victory with the new law. “He could not have overcome the majority opposition in the Assembly without the court’s decision. It was clear the plan of many Assembly members was to reinstall the SuperComm controls of the Correa’s government.”