Two weeks ago, Lenin Moreno cleared out the Rafael Correa-era management at the government-owned print and broadcast media. Last week, the new management laid out revised editorial policies and announced a goal of making public media self-supporting.
Behind the scenes, the changes have ignited outrage among Alianza País Correa loyalists who view them as a betrayal of the former president.
The appointment of Andrés Michelena as general manager of public media July 12, replacing Munir Massuh, was Moreno’s decisive media move, according to political observers. It was, however, the naming of Fernando Larenas, a career mainstream journalist as director of El Telégrafo, that generated the most anger from some Alianza País members.
“The issue was really determined when Michelena was picked to run things,” says Andres Castro, an aide to Correa in 2007 and 2008. “The Correistas focused on Larenas because he was part of the private media, one of Rafael’s big bogeymen going back to his first campaign. What makes them the maddest, however, is that they realize that they have lost the newspapers and television media as party propaganda tools. Moreno made it clear even before the presidential campaign began that he thought it was unfair that the public should pay for political party media. For some reason, the Correistas didn’t believe he would actually follow through.”
According to Castro, the appointment of Larenas set off an almost comical charade by Correa loyalists to undermine it. “They circulated stories that Moreno had changed his mind based on advice from party leaders and had rescinded the job offer to Larenas,” he said. “Moreno has thick skin though and doesn’t let fanatics influence him. He is perfectly comfortable letting them embarrass themselves.”
In two press conferences last week, Michelena and Larenas said government-owned media would open its pages and studios to a wide range of voices and opinions and drop the hard-line pro-government approach. They also announced that they expected the media to become self-supporting by attracting larger audiences and more advertising dollars.
“At El Telégrafo, my goal is to establish high journalistic standards that will let readers know we are newspaper that can be trusted and respected,” Larenas said at one of the press conferences. “We need to rebuild readership and can only do that by gaining the respect of the people of Ecuador.”
Castro believes that the Correa loyalists will soon realize that fighting Moreno’s decisions is a losing cause. “Once they fully realize that Moreno holds the winning hand I think they will quiet down,” he says. “At this point, they remind me of the old cartoon characters who run off a cliff and keep running for a few seconds before they realize their circumstances.”