Ecuador: HRF condemns harassment of critical journalist in NY days after she was vilified by President Correa

Human Rights Foundation
(www.miscelaneasdecuba.net).- NEW YORK. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the harassment suffered by Ecuadorean journalist Betty Escobar in New York City, and by her family in Guayaquil, Ecuador, just days after she was lambasted by President Rafael Correa during his weekly TV broadcast as a “hater” who “slings mud from New York.” After receiving threatening messages, Escobar filed a complaint with the New York City Police Department and with the district attorney’s office in Guayas, Ecuador.

“Betty Escobar joins a long list of Ecuadorean journalists who, in the last few years, have been harassed for having an opinion different from that of the government,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “This is not an isolated case. In Ecuador, journalists who dare to question the government or President Correa risk all sorts of retaliation, including threats and harassment by state-owned media, prison sentences, and millions of dollars in damages owed. What’s particularly alarming about this case is the transnational nature of the harassment. Escobar is being harassed here in New York City for opinions read primarily in Ecuador,” added Halvorssen.
 
On March 27, 2014, as part of her column in the newspaper El Universo, Escobarpublished an op-ed titled “Back in New York” (in Spanish, “Vuelve a Nueva York”), in which she criticized the trip Correa planned to make to the U.S. A few days later, on March 29, the journalist was denounced by President Correa during his mandatory TV broadcast number 367, in which he stated: “There’s Betty Escobar, who even writes for El Comercio, who is a hater, who slings mud from New York and is tweeting about how ‘the dictator is coming to the United States.’ […] Check out the [Twitter] usernames of those who participate in such infamies, on these human disgraces. […] Haters, ink assassins, cowards disguised as journalists.”
 
On April 7, the journalist received a bouquet of flowers at her home along with the message: “Your friends from Ecuador. We will pay you a visit...” The same messages were sent that day to her parents and aunt in Guayaquil.
 
The next day, the journalist filed a complaint for “aggravated harassment,” following the advice of New York police officers. On April 11, Joffre Campaña, Escobar’s attorney in Guayaquil, filed a complaint on the same grounds at the district attorney’s office in Guayas. The journalist stated that she keeps in constant communication with the New York City Police Department, who are still investigating the case. However, according to Escobar, the district attorney’s office in Guayas has not been in contact with her or her lawyer, nor has the office informed her about the progress of the investigations in Guayaquil.
 
“These actions are intended to stifle opinions critical of Correa’s government—not just in Ecuador, but anywhere in the world. To show good faith on this matter, Correa should speak out publicly in support of Escobar and demand a thorough investigation to identify, and eventually punish, those who are threatening the journalist. Otherwise, Correa will be responsible for what may happen to Escobar and her family,” said Halvorssen. “This will not be just another case of harassment made against journalists, like so many that are reported in Ecuador and are never investigated. HRF will follow every effort made by the New York City Police Department to identify the source of the threat against Escobar,” Halvorssen concluded.
 
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

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