|Official Country Name:||Republic of Ecuador|
|Region (Map name):||South America|
|Language(s):||Spanish (official), Amerindian languages (especially Quechua)|
|Area:||283,560 sq km|
|GDP:||13,607 (US$ millions)|
|Number of Television Sets:||1,550,000|
|Television Sets per 1,000:||117.6|
|Number of Cable Subscribers:||323,820|
|Cable Subscribers per 1,000:||25.7|
|Number of Satellite Subscribers:||9,000|
|Satellite Subscribers per 1,000:||0.7|
|Number of Radio Stations:||448|
|Number of Radio Receivers:||4,150,000|
|Radio Receivers per 1,000:||314.8|
|Number of Individuals with Computers:||275,000|
|Computers per 1,000:||20.9|
|Number of Individuals with Internet Access:||180,000|
|Internet Access per 1,000:||13.7|
Background & General Characteristics
Named for its proximity to the Equator, La República de Ecuador (The Republic of Ecuador) is located in the northwest part of South America, bordering Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean. Originally part of the federation known as La República de Gran Colombia which gained independence from Spain in 1822, Ecuador became a separate country in 1830. Part of its land was lost in disputes with Peru in the early part of the twentieth century. Today Ecuador is about the size of Colorado and is the smallest country in South America.
The people of Ecuador have a diverse ethnic heritage. About one-fourth of the population is indigenous to the area, about half is mestizo (mixture of Indian and European), and the remaining one-fourth is comprised of other ethnicities, including African and Caucasian. Ecuador has a total population exceeding 13 million people; approximately 1.5 million live in the capital city of Quito. The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, although the Quichua language (an Amerindian dialect) is spoken by many people. About 95 percent of the country's citizens are Roman Catholic.
Approximately 55 percent of Ecuador's population lives in urban areas. Estimates suggest that as many as 70 percent of the people in the country live below the poverty level; in 2001 the unemployment rate was 13 percent. The largest part of the national workforce is represented by agricultural jobs in seafood, fruit, coffee, and various other crops. The literacy rate is around 90 percent, and as many as two-thirds of children drop out of school by the sixth grade, even though education is compulsory until age 14. However, government programs designed to improve early childhood education are believed to have increased enrollment in primary schools steadily over the last 20 years.
Daily newspaper circulation in Ecuador is 70 per 1,000 people; daily readership is estimated to be between 5 and 10 percent of the total population. This relatively low figure is due mostly to poverty. There are 29 daily newspapers, most of which are located in the two largest metropolitan areas: the country's capital, Quito, where El Comercial and Hoy are published, and the nation's largest city, Guayaquil, the home of El Universo and El Expresso.El Universo alone has a daily readership of over half a million people.
The press in Ecuador has always been greatly influenced by religion and politics. Under the rule of conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno (1860-1895), standards of expression were governed by the clergy of the Catholic Church, which had the power to censor the public's reading material. When the revolution led by Eloy Alfaro in 1895 overthrew Moreno's reign, the Radical Liberal rule broke official ties with the church, secularized education, and reformed conditions related to free speech and press.
Journalism is often a dangerous profession in Ecuador, as violence toward the press there has escalated over the past few years. In 2000 TV news director Rafael Cuesta Caputti was wounded by a mail bomb, one of several that were mailed to various journalists following the quick overthrow of President Jamil Mahuad. Also in that year, journalist David Montalvo was attacked while covering an influx of Colombian refugees and Ecuadorians at the border, and there were attacks on buildings housing newspapers and the news offices of Reuters and CNN.
Other acts of violence against media agents have been staged by individuals and groups in reaction to coverage of political events in the country. In 1998, 22 journalists at the Hoy were assaulted by demonstrators reacting to a printed scandal regarding misappropriation of aid for El Niño victims. There are other examples of journalists who have been threatened, attacked, injured, or even killed while covering politically and socially sensitive stories.
Journalists in Ecuador face a number of other obstacles as well, such as government limited access to public information, conflicts of interest among media owners, and heavy workloads. Most journalists make relatively low salaries, often requiring them to take second jobs to support themselves and their families. Added to the sometimes volatile political and legal environments that reporters must confront, producing high quality articles on Ecuador is not an easy job.
Like many other South American countries, Ecuador has experienced often harsh economic conditions over the last two decades. Although the performance of country's fruit and seafood industries have been generally good, the nation succumbed to a number of problems in the 1990s that caused its economy to falter almost to the point of bankruptcy in 1999. In the years prior to that, damages caused by El Niño, the collapse of the banking industry, the Asian financial crisis, and a slump in the petroleum industry all contributed to stifling inflation, high unemployment, and dramatic currency devaluation. These events, as well as other economic factors, affected journalism in Ecuador in a number of ways.
For example, the banking crisis in 1999 led to media criticism of the president's handling of economic policy, causing increased tension between the government and the press. President Noboa was critical of the media's coverage and exhorted them to observe more objectivity in their reporting. In that same year, Congress had also established a 10 percent tax on newspaper and magazine distribution, an act that was met with outrage by the journalism community. Because of this reaction, and in an effort to help boost the country's economic crisis, the government repealed this tax later in the year.
During 2001 President Noboa made a number of economic reforms, including the privatization of several government industries, which created political and civic opposition and added to the potential dangers to journalists reporting related events. (Noboa, formerly the vice president, had moved into the executive position after a military coup removed his predecessor, Mahuad, two days earlier). Also during that year, protests over fuel prices by Indians contributed to the dangers faced by reporters. The administration later cut those prices, reducing much of the tension. However, because of the resulting social unrest, the government declared a national state of emergency and assumed the power to censure the media; it later prevailed upon media not to sensationalize events and to avoid creating public panic.
Ecuador has many laws that govern the practice of journalism. The Constitution of 1998 guarantees freedom of expression to all citizens, including members of the press. Moreover, The Law of Practice of Professional Journalism, passed in 1975, grants journalists access to official information and other data in the interest of the public, and to receive assistance from state or private agencies in obtaining this information. The Law also protects journalists from revealing sources, unless cases of national security are involved.
All journalists must hold a communication degree from a university and register with the Federación Nacional de Periodistas (National Federation of Journalists), although this law is not always enforced. Journalists having extensive experience but no degree may be given a certificado de profesionalización (professional certification) by the Ministry of Education, allowing them the same full status as degreed journalists. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has declared these licensing requirements to be unconstitutional, but as of June 2002, they are still in effect.
Slander and defamation laws in Ecuador are very strict. These laws carry criminal penalties of up to two years as well as fines, and many press agents have been punished for infractions. One of the provisions of the current Constitution holds that all citizens have the right to a good name, a good reputation, and personal and family privacy; this right places journalists in jeopardy when they report findings that can compromise any of these attributes. The law also provides the means by which offended parties can require retractions for publicized untrue statements.
Media law in Ecuador is civic oriented. For example, the National Council of Radio Broadcasting and Television regulates artistic, cultural, and moral standards, including control of content before 9:00 p.m. A strict Code of Ethics is maintained by the Ecuadorian Association of Radio and Television and the Association of Television Channels of Ecuador, which enforce the government's mandate in Article 81 of the Constitution requiring media to promote educational, cultural, and ethical values. Any publications that promote "violence, racism, sexism, religious or political intolerance, or that offends human dignity" are forbidden, according to The Code of Penal Procedure of 1983, which prohibits the distribution of writing that is "immoral" or which deal with "obscene or dishonorable subjects," or when such writing may instigate criminal activity.
Most recently, The Children's and Teenagers' Code is before the Congress, a bill that would ensure educational, informational, and socially responsible programming for the country's young people. In addition, it would establish the requirement to accommodate children with communication disabilities and to include programming in indigenous languages in areas where those languages are predominant. Article 200 of the Code of Minors forbids media to publish any information that harms the privacy or good reputation of children.
Various other state laws provide that the government can require all radio and television stations to broadcast official programs, news, and announcements. There are also laws that restrict the amount of space newspapers can use for political advertising per day (Electoral Law of 1987) and laws that require newspapers to reveal the amount of money spent on political advertising. Failure to comply with these laws can result in closure of a news organization. There are also many laws to protect copyright, to guard against threats to the government, and to limit the distribution of information that compromises national security. La Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciónes (Superintendent of Telecommunications) oversees regulations pertaining to broadcast media.
Although the Constitution of Ecuador guarantees media agents freedom of press, there is considerable self-censorship among journalists who write about sensitive political, social, or military issues, and for good reason: any published material that is deemed immoral, obscene, or otherwise in conflict with cultural values or "human decency" may subject a journalist to various sanctions— one of several ways the government regulates the content of news and programming.
Several instances of censorship occurred during the last decade, such as the case of Navy Captain Rogelio Viteri, who was arrested after publicly discussing details of an alleged overcharge of insurance on aircraft. In 2001 the news programs of four radio stations were suspended in Orellana Province following an Indian uprising that caused the government to declare a national state of emergency, during which the Noboa administration asked journalists to keep "balance" in the news and to avoid sensationalism. And in 2001 Malena Cardona Batallas was sentenced to a 30-day prison term and fined for slandering a government official whom she questioned about fraud allegations. Other such cases of censorship can be found in recent Ecuadorian history.
Although the Constitution requires that the state release information to the public, this law is often ignored. In cases involving the protection of national security, the government may classify certain information and, with the threat of criminal penalties, restrict journalists from releasing it. According to Article 35 of the Law of Professional Practice of Journalism, journalists who commit "offenses against the security of the state" can be prosecuted under the National Security Law and the Penal Code.
Even though cases like the ones stated above exist, in most other matters the press in Ecuador enjoys limited interference from government. To a great extent, professional journalism organizations self-regulate the conduct of the press. The National Federation of Journalists' Code of Ethics (1978) provides penalties, including temporary license suspension, for ethics violations. The National Council of Radio Broadcasting and Television is charged with the responsibility of regulating broadcast programming that upholds moral and cultural standards, and can issue sanctions against stations that transmit programs contrary to these standards.
One area in which government does assert itself into the press is political advertising. The Electoral Supreme Court has the ability to sanction any news organization that fails to disclose the amount of money politicians have spent on advertising; other government bodies also limit the amount of space a newspaper can devote to political advertising per day.
Attitude toward Foreign Media
Many foreign press agencies maintain offices in Ecuador, including CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and the Italy-based Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata. These organizations enjoy the same basic freedoms as Ecuador-based news groups, although foreign reporters may be required to register at the National Secretariat of Public Information in order to practice in the country. If they hold journalism or related degrees from universities in their home countries, they are fully entitled to be professionally active in Ecuador.
There are government policies, however, that limit the extent to which non-nationals participate in the ownership and administration of Ecuadorian media. Foreign investors can own only up to 25 percent of the country's broadcasting stations and companies. Managerial staff must be Ecuadorian citizens, and high-ranking media personnel must be born in Ecuador, according to the 1975 La Ley de Radiofusión y Televisión (the Law of Radio Broadcasting and Television.).
Several news agencies are based in Ecuador, including Diario El Mercurio, Diario El Telegrafo, and the Interpress Service.
Radio and television permeate Ecuadorian society, especially in the larger metropolitan areas of Quito and Guayaquil. The country has approximately 324 AM and 49 FM radio stations that broadcast to 4.15 million radios, and some 300 television stations that carry signals to 1.5 million televisions in the country. All stations are privately owned except for one government-controlled station. Seven networks operate in Ecuador, including five national channels—Ecuavisa, Gamavision, Teleamazonas, TC-Telecentro, and Telesistema. The U.S.-based Univision, a Spanish language network, is also available on major cable systems in the country.
The broadcast industry in Ecuador is regulated by the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciónes (Superintendent of Telecommunications), an office comparable to the Federal Communications Commission in the United States.
Electronic News Media
Most of Ecuador's major newspapers maintain Web sites. There are also numerous other Ecuadorian-based online sources of journalism, including Vistazo.com (with links to Reuters and Newsweek), EcuaNet, and Quito News, the latter of which is in English. These sites contain sections on local and international news, business, sports, culture, and other topics.
Education & TRAINING
Several universities in Ecuador offer degrees in mass communication, including the largest programs at Pontifica Universidad Católica, Univerisdad Andina Simon Bolivar, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and Universidad Nacional de Loja. Many programs are often called Comunicación Sociales, which is a degree that combines journalism classes with course work in public relations, web programming, culture and linguistics, and the social sciences.
Besides training in conventional university settings, other opportunities exist for the professional development of journalists in Ecuador. One workshop, sponsored by the Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research Center and held in Quito in 2001, provided a forum for journalists and scientists to discuss ways to disseminate information about the ecology. Another example of educational resources is the Quito-based El Centro Internacional de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para America Latina (The International Center for Advanced Study in Communication in Latin America), a nonprofit, autonomous organization that conducts research and provides training for communication professionals from all over the region.
These, and many other opportunities, speak of Ecuador's commitment to the internationalization of media and to the cultural diversity of the people whom that media serves.
Ecuador is a nation of people whose passion for civic issues provides journalists with great potential—and
- 1998: Current Constitution enacted. Also, twenty-two journalists at the Hoy were assaulted by demon strators.
- 1999: Economic crisis hits Ecuador, causing tensions that lead to attacks on journalists.
- 2001: Navy Captain Rogelio Viteri was arrested after publicly discussing details of an alleged over-charge of insurance on aircraft. Malena Cardona Batallas was sentenced to a 30-day prison term and fined for slandering a government official. Four radio stations were temporarily suspended in Orel-lana following their coverage of an Indian uprising in that province.
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