On October 3rd, a national strike began in Ecuador in rejection of decree 883 proposed by the Executive that eliminated gas subsidies. A nightmare began that day for the press that, when trying to cover the demonstrations, was made the target of constant attacks, harassment, physical aggressions and threats.
From the beginning of the protests until October 13th, Fundamedios counted 113 attacks against media and journalists (including photographers, cameramen, community communicators). From these, 61 were registered as physical attacks, 10 cases of impediments of coverage, eight arrests, among others. 20 attacks on the media were also registered.
Through constant monitoring, our organization reported 135 journalists attacked, 51 by protesters, 36 by the Public Force, 18 by strangers, two by the State and two by citizens.
The difference between the number of aggressions, 113, with the number of assaulted persons, 135, is a consequence of the fact that there were collective aggressions, sometimes, with dozens of victims simultaneously, as was the case of the “detained” journalists in the Ecuadorian House of Culture Agora (Ágora de la CCE)
The first day of the national strike, violence registered from the Police against the press was the set tonic. More than 16 communicators were attacked, mainly, during coverage in downtown Quito.
Julio Estrella, a photographer for El Comercio, was violently beaten by 15 police officers and sprayed with tear gas. «(…) Without any explanation, they began to push us with their shields and hit us,» he explained to FUNDAMEDIOS. Daniel Molineros, an API agency photographer, tried to defend him and was also beaten. Journalists Adriana Noboa, a reporter for Primicias and Yadira Trujillo from El Comercio, were prevented by at least 12 riot police members from filming repression against protesters with their cell phones. They also were hit with batons. That same day, in the morning, a taxi driver hit Freddy Toapanta, a cameraman from Teleamazonas, while doing a live transmission along reporter Fernanda Cevallos.
Over the weekend, the attacks didn’t stop. On Saturday, October 5th, David Aguiar, a cameraman from, ‘Guarmillas’, a Facebook news outlet, was wounded with a rubber bullet in the upper right side of his chest by the Police. The incident occurred in Riobamba, a province center of Ecuador. On Sunday, October 6th, there was a truce for the press, but the next day another chapter of aggressions began. On this occasion those violations were perpetrated by the protesters.
On October 7th, TVC reporter Andrea Orbe and cameraman Tito Correa were physically and verbally assaulted while covering road closures on the North Pan American Highway. “They tried to drag me, then they took my microphone, cell phone, car keys. My cameraman tried to protect the camera and put it down on the floor to stop recording. It was a very tense moment because we didn’t know what to do (…)”, described Orbe. In the afternoon, journalist Mauricio Ceballos and cameraman Iván Aroca from TC Television were attacked by protesters in Santa Lucia, a town located in the coastal province of Guayas. They were hit on the back with a stick and stones were flung at them.
On October 8th, journalists William Rivadeneira from Cable Mágico, Carlos López from Macas News and César Correa from Radio Shalom, suffered physical attacks and harassment by protesters, while covering riots in Morona Santiago. Teleamazonas’ correspondan, Wilson Cabrera’s camera was broken while he recorded the protests.
On October 9th, in Portoviejo-Manabí, Diego Delgado, reporter for Ediasa, was unable to finish his report because a mob of rioters threw stones and insulted him. The journalist, who has a disability and was carrying a Conadis card (special aid), was fortunately unharmed.
On Wednesday, in the center of Quito, several press teams that covered the riots had to take shelter in a parking lot in San Blas, after being besieged by several protesters, who threw stones at them and threatened to drag them through the streets. This was confirmed by Alex Llanos, a journalist from Ecuador Tv to our organization. Some of the reporters jumped into an adjoining house to avoid aggressions.
Several strangers who joined the protest to commit vandalism also assaulted the press. Diego Ayala, a photographer from digital outlet GK, notified that his camera was almost robbed while he was trying to capture images from the strike. Another TVC reporter was robbed off his mobile phone.
On October 10th, our organization reported one of the most serious attacks against Teleamazonas’ journalist Freddy Paredes, who was injured with a stone on his head, when he left the House of Culture Agora, where he was covering the concentration of the indigenous movement. Paredes presented a fractured clavicle and a bruised head with an open wound. The network’s attorney filed a complaint with the State Prosecutor for attempted murder. The culprit, who has already been identified, is on the most wanted list.
Throughout the day of protests, FUNDAMEDIOS also registered a strong stigmatizing speech against the press, whom was being accused of not being impartial and covering news events that only favoured Government. «Corrupt press», «sold press», “fake press», were some of the protesters slogans.
Journalists from television channels, mainly from Teleamazonas and Ecuavisa, were harassed. Fausto Yépez, from the former, was antagonised in Santo Domingo, in the center of the capital city. There, several people accused him of «misinforming.» The journalist escaped and managed to hide in a stationery store in the area, from where he had to leave, practically camouflaged so rioters wouldn’t harm him.
During that long day of protests, eight communicators were arrested. Seven of them were released immediately, but Camila Martinez, a reporter from the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE), was sentenced to five days in prison for insulting and assaulting public order agents.
On October 13th, after eleven days of uninterrupted protests, the national government opened dialogue with the indigenous movement, whom until that day had led the protest nationwide. After hours of a televised dialogue mediated by the United Nations Organization (UN), President Lenin Moreno gave in to their request. A commission in which representatives of the indigenous movement, of the UN and of the Government will collectively participate to create a new decree that abolishes decree 883. This would leave without effect the previous decree that proposed the withdrawal of the gas subsidies.