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Ecuador | The Fundamedios Report in Context

New and noted:

A NED-sponsored press freedom campaign, Fundamedios, raises Cain over the SLAPP suit brought against El Universo by President Rafael Correa of Ecuador.

The results of the survey show that attacks on journalists and media organizations grew 150% in the last four years. In the first quarter of 2009 there were 21 cases of aggression. In 2010, that number jumped to 34, and to 42 in 2011. These figures reflect in great part constant attacks on the press inspired by President Correa, according to Fundamedios, despite the presidential pardon of journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita, authors of Big Brother and respondents in a libel suit againt the daily El Universo. The case against Calderón and Zurita continues: the court ruled in late March not to accept the presidential pardon. The information is from Liliana Honorato of the Knight Center blog Journalism in the Americas [April 16, 2012].

IFEX, an international freedom of speech organization with heavy ties to K Street’s democracy export industry, reports that Correa has called his adversaries at El Universo «liars». The defendants, meanwhile, have assembled an impressive slate of amicus curiae commentators on the case, including an opinion from Harvard Law.

Under the Constitution of the United States, Mr. Palacio would enjoy clear First Amendment rights protecting him from either criminal or civil liability in the action brought against him by Mr. Correa.

Leaving aside the ifs ands and buts of the case — as a true-blue nephew of my Uncle Sam, how could I not be alarmed by this SLAPP at our First Amendment? — I still believe that the Bolivarian rhetoric of Correa feeds on the appearance of foreign meddling dating back to the days of United Fruit.

Any undergraduate will immediately suspect, for example, that stating the trend in terms of percentages tends to mask what might seem a fairly modest absolute number of «attacks». «Attacks» is not defined very precisely to differentiate between physical or practical violence and rhetorical cannonades accompanied by a real risk to operations.

Above, the network neighborhood of the hot site for Correa v. El Universo.

It consists of several global newspapers, participants in the World Association of Newspapers, a body whose founding members are principals in Innovation Media Consulting, in concert with such major publishing groups as PRISA and the Latin American AP, GDA, whose membership share a distinctive style of graphical and news design.

Intersecting with this content flow are streams tracing back to USAID, CIMA.NED and related media development programs of the U.S. government, as well as quite a few public-private partrnerships, none of them very plausibly deniable.

For this reason, the perceptions invoked by Correa — call it the «Phantom Banana Republican» meme —  are a difficult legacy to live down.

Correa has learned from Chávez — the phantom carcinogenic CIA plot! — that inciting moral panic over foreign influence sells electoral soap.

The Anglo-European democracy export industry is feeding, not depriving, such moments — moments of perceived vulnerability to cultural invasion — of the oxygen they need to propagate.

In this case, it is important to realize that the shift in funding of the Fundamedios project over the last few years is notable, and readily exploitable by the rhetoricians of nationalism.