Ecuador’s communications secretariat has halted proceedings to shut down the country’s last remaining independent press watchdog, Fundamedios, nearly three weeks after saying it would be dissolved due to alleged partisan political activities.
The closure announcement was broadly condemned as censorship by international human rights and press freedom groups, and the U.S. government.
Communications Secretary Fernando Alvarado said in a statement Friday that his office was heeding a request by Ecuador’s national ombudsman.
Fundamedios director Cesar Ricaurte called the decision a victory for democracy and human rights. He said international and national support were crucial to the government’s reversal.
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Everyone from free speech groups to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had asked the government to reconsider the move.
The Inter-American Press Association welcomed the news but said the government was wrong to continue insisting that Fundamedios had violated regulations.
The government’s case against the group focused on its Twitter account that sometimes broadcast links to articles and editorials critical of President Rafael Correa.
During the proceedings to close Fundamedios, the government said it believed “Fundamedios has disseminated messages, alerts and essays with indisputable political overtones.” It also said the organization had violated its own charter that limited it to “the areas of social communication and journalism.”
The organization insisted that it had done nothing more than to link to political blogs that were sometimes critical of the administration.
Correa has had an adversarial relationship with independent media since first taking office in 2007. The leftist economist accuses them of being biased mouthpieces of what he calls Ecuador’s oligarchy.
Miami Herald South America Correspondent Jim Wyss contributed to this report from Bogotá, Colombia