An Ecuadorian government agency has assumed control of a press freedom organization, raising further concerns about a media crackdown in the country, the Ecuadorian newspaper La Hora reports.
The National Secretariat of Communication (SECOM) in Ecuador notified the media civil society group Fundamedios on Jan. 16 that it was taking administrative control of the organization, as well as three other media companies.
"The entity that attacks us, now is the entity that will control us," said Cesar Ricaurte, director of Fundamedios. "Simply, put your head on a silver platter and anytime could be a physical intervention in Fundamedios."
Ricaurte expressed concerns that the government could eventually dissolve Fundamedios for "affecting the public peace," a charge that President Rafael Correa’s administration used to disband an environmental nongovernment organization (NGO) last month. A decree issued by the administration last June granted it new powers to examine the financial information of NGOs and dissolve them.
Ricaurte said the move by SECOM is only the latest in a "long chain of actions undertaken by the regime to harass and prevent normal operation" of Fundamedios since 2011.
Correa has accused Fundamedios of acting in "bad faith" and defending "the [media] guild and all its abuses" rather than freedom of speech, according to a press release by the group. Fundamedios has also been heavily criticized by state-owned media and denied official registration by the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES).
The Washington Free Beacon has previously reported on investigative journalist Fernando Villavicencio, whose home in Ecuador was raided in the middle of the night last month. Police confiscated documents involving alleged corruption by government officials.
Villavicencio and opposition lawmaker Clever Jimenez have been sentenced to a year and a half in prison, ordered to pay large fines, and required to publicly apologize to Correa for a previous defamation complaint filed by the president.