New communication law will decriminalize slander, allow greater press freedom, government says

May 28, 2021 | 12 comments

It should not be up to the government to determine if the news media is telling the truth and opinions should not be subject to criminal penalties. That is the basis of changes to the national communication law that the President Guillermo Lasso sent to the National Assembly on Monday.

Secretary of Communication Eduardo Bonilla

“We are making needed repairs to Rafael Correa’s law that punished the news media and held them accountable by government oversight,” says Ecuador Secretary of Communication Eduardo Bonilla. “No one should go to jail for giving an opinion. As it is currently written, the law represents the imposition of unreasonable rules on the media by an overly authoritarian government and we want to change that.”

The Law of Communication, proposed by the Correa administration and passed by the National Assembly in 2013, claimed to “democratize” the news media, calling public information a “national asset of the people.” Under its rules, a government commission determined if news reports were “true and accurate” and punished reporters and media owners if it determined that violations occurred.

Lasso’s proposed changes include the stipulation that “no media, journalist or communicator may be sanctioned for expressing opinions or making criticisms or complaints against the government. Criminal proceedings of any nature may not be initiated against them for their opinions and subsequent liability will be exclusively civil in nature.”

“Our intention is to be open and friendly with the media but also to tolerate opposition and criticism,” Bonilla said. “We saw the damage that Correa’s law did to the transparent dissemination of information and we want to end that. We continue to see damage that control of the media has inflicted in countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela and we commit ourselves to not let that happen in Ecuador.”