By Glenda Ortega
The relationship between the Ecuadorian and the U.S. governments has been very sensitive since World Press Freedom Day on May 3. That day, the U.S. ambassador in Quito, Adam Namm, attended an event organized by the National Union of Journalists.
As part of this event, some journalists and citizens drew graffiti on a wall to express their thoughts about freedom of speech. Namm also wrote a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The only security of all is a free press.”
After that, the Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patiño, convened a press conference to say the conduct of the U.S. ambassador was inappropriate. The reason? On the same wall there were offensive cartoons and negative expressions directed at Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Also, the government of Ecuador considers the National Union of Journalists a political-activist group. And, unfortunately, there are some journalists who have been partisan.
Journalism in Ecuador is treated as a political issue by the government. If I say that we need our president to be more tolerant of critics, Rafael Correa’s supporters might say: “Where are you studying? You say that because you are living in the U.S. You are not an independent journalist. Their argument is that you’re either with the revolution or against it.”
And here we go again! Polarization is daily life in Ecuador and also has been limiting the journalist’s job. During the last five years, some friends of mine decided to leave journalism because they didn’t want to be part of certain private media outlets that are against Correa nor did they want to act as government spokespersons in the public media.
Freedom of expression is not just about the intolerance of the president of Ecuador. It is about the situation of journalists: People who decided to leave this profession because they don’t want to be used. Do real independent journalists have a place in Ecuador? This is my question.
“We are a sovereign country,” says President Correa to the U.S. government all the time. Let me say: Mr. President, I am a sovereign journalist. No one thinks or writes for me.