Affirmative action: needed

The new media law that recently passed in Ecuador promises to “democratize” information and access to the media in that South American country, limiting private monopolies in favor of an equitable distribution of frequencies to benefit more public and community media outlets. Among its many provisions, the law sets forth good principles, like the one that prohibits censorship by public officials (Article 18). But it also creates legal entities that directly contradict this principle and open the door to the possibility that this controversial law—driven by a president whose relations with the media have been less than cordial—will result in censorship and self-censorship.

Recently, the organization Reporters Without Borders analyzed the positive and negative features of the new law, pointing out several articles. For example, one provision prohibits “media lynching,” a legal figure that opens up the possibility that investigating a corrupt public official can become a reason for lawsuits and jail time—not for the politician but for the media outlet and journalists involved. Another provision that worries critics of the law attempts to regulate in detail what is good and bad journalism and how the media is used, establishing a Council for the Regulation and Development of Information and Communication led by a presidential appointee and with members from other government agencies.

While the goal of opening the media to other social groups is laudable, the very idea that any government—this one or another—can have a body that decides what is good and bad journalism, what is “lynching” or “defamation,” and what can or can’t be the subject of investigative journalism, is cause for concern. This isn’t the democratization of information, but exactly the opposite.