The editor of Ecuador's daily newspaper El Universo, Gustavo Cortez, responded on Monday to remarks made against him by President Rafael Correa last month. Cortez claimed that a television appearance by Correa, in which the leftist president showed a photo of the editor and denounced him as an "evil man," amounted to an attack in violation of his rights.
On June 16, Correa lambasted Cortez on public television, displaying a photograph of the editor on screen for several minutes in a form of public shaming. Correa urged viewers to "recognize this man and react to him," according to a translation from Spanish. "Look at him ... and don't forget him, because he is the clearest example of bad press in this country."
Cortez recounted the incident during a visit to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. The organization previously has condemned Ecuador's use of defamation laws against journalists to limit freedom of expression.
Cortez claims that the president's attack came after El Universo published reports linking senior government officials with corruption.
"Correa did not refer to the reports," Cortez said. Rather than refuting or clarifying El Universo's findings, Cortez explained, the president instead launched a verbal attack on Cortez himself.
In the wake of Correa's appearance, Cortez says that he has been forced to change his children's daily schedules to protect their safety. Cortez also maintains that the president's response has instilled fear in young reporters in the country.
Rights groups and foreign governments have criticized steps taken by the Ecuadorian government to restrict press freedoms. Chief among several concerns is Correa's crackdown on private media, with recent reports indicating that he may even declare a boycott on interviews given by government ministers to the private media.
"Ecuador is moving faster than anywhere else to restrict free expression,” director of the Andean Foundation for Media Study and Observation César Ricaurte said, according to The Washington Post.