Seven of Ecuador’s mainstream media outlets have been fined by authorities for failing to publish a story about defeated right-wing presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso and his association with offshore tax havens.
Following a complaint filed by the Citizen Observatory, a fine of US$3,750 was handed down by the State Superintendent of Information and Communication, or Supercom, to seven media organizations; newspapers, El Comercio, La Hora, Expreso, El Universo, and television channels Televicentro, Tele Amazonas and Ecuavisa.
The story in question about the former right-wing banker was originally published by the Argentine newspaper Página 12 with the title “Lasso, The Offshore Tycoon” on March 15. The article alleged that Lasso was associated with 49 companies that were using offshore tax haven.
It also alleged that Lasso helped to create, but was also made large profits off Ecuador’s banking crisis in 1990s, known as the “Bank Holiday,” which forced around 2 million to flee the country in the aftermath of economic devastation.
Several other outlets in the country and across the region also ran with the story. However, the seven fined media outlets -- which have been criticized for being sympathetic toward the opposition -- chose to suppress the story.
The media law which was introduced after a referendum by ongoing President Rafael Correa to regulate misinformation from media outletsensures that media cannot refrain or purposefully omit information that is deemed of “public importance or general interest.”
Supercom is the body behind media regulation, and its head Carlos Ochoa asked how the article on a presidential candidate and his origin could be been seen as important to the public interest.
The guiltymedia outlets, however, have criticized the fines and Lawyer for El Comercio, Henry Tobar said that the network of offshore companies which Pagina 12 reported about has not yet been proven.