Controversial media law takes effect in Ecuador

A controversial new law took effect in Ecuador to regulate the media, banning the broadcast or publishing of reports government authorities believe favour certain candidates or ideologies.

Ecuador is eyeing a 2013 presidential election in which leftist President Rafael Correa may seek reelection. Correa has clashed with the media publicly and in court. Critics charge the leftist economist by training who is close to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has undercut free speech.

The pro-government bloc in the legislature could have changed but did not alter the law under which media "shall abstain from directly or indirectly promoting with reports, specials or other communication, efforts to favour or oppose specific candidates, initiatives or political ideas."

The law does not say what exactly happens to those who break it. But the electoral court has the power to fine offenders. Journalists' unions have slammed the law as a bold effort to silence them and against their freedom of speech.

Correa sued the newspaper El Universo in March 2011 alleging "defamatory libel" over a column by former opinion page editor Emilio Palacio that accused the president of crimes against humanity.

Ecuador's supreme court last month suspended a hearing of an appeal seeking the dismissal of a USD 40 million fine and prison sentences against the newspaper for libelling Correa.

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