Ecuador adopts divisive reform of communications law, with drastic advertising bans


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On 14 June 2013, the National Assembly of Ecuador adopted an extensive revision of the Law on Communications amidst serious concerns for freedom of the press. The law includes significant restrictions on advertising – including an outright ban on all foreign-made ads.

The bill was presented by the government in 2009 but was then rejected by the members of the National Assembly. The new National Assembly, formed in May with a majority of members from President Rafael Correa's political party approved a modified version of the original bill with 108 members voting in favour and 26 against.

Most importantly, the law prohibits all advertising produced outside of Ecuador (article 98). An ad is considered national production if a majority of the (production) company's shareholders are Ecuadorian or legal residents and if at least 80% of the persons contributing to its creation are Ecuadorian nationals or legal residents.
In addition, the Law contains a series of restrictions on advertising:
  • Advertising for food products must first receive authorisation from the Ministry of Health (article 94).
  • Advertising during children's programmes must be approved by the Consejo de Regulacion y Desarrollo de la Informacion y Communicacion (article 94).
  • All advertising for “child pornography, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and for narcotic or psychotropic drugs” (article 94) is prohibited.
  • Advertising for products whose regular/recurrent use may affect users' health is prohibited – a list of the products concerned will be determined by the Health Ministry.

Labelled the “gag law” by opposition lawmakers, it has sparked fears of media curbs amongst local and international organisations, who believe this law gives the government greater power to control the media. A provision in the new bill allows the new “Council of Content Regulation” to sanction media outlets for not reporting news the government believes should be reported. The law also prohibits "media lynching", defined as damaging a person or institution's prestige or public credibility without sufficient foundation.

“The restrictive provisions and vague language of this legislation run counter to constitutional guarantees and international standards on freedom of expression,” said Carlos Laurķa of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “This legislation puts into law a key goal of the Correa presidency – muzzling all critics of his administration.”

The New Law on Communications took effect on Tuesday 25 June.

The President of Ecuador addressed the ban in this speech (English subtitles).

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