Police in Ecuador seize TV station's equipment, leaving it off the air
Dec 30, Quito: In the early morning of December 16 2015, Ecotel TV Station of the city of Loja – located on the southern border of the country – reported that a group from the National Police and officials of the telecommunications regulatory body violently entered the TV station's facilities with orders to seize the equipment and leave the station off the air. The media outlet said they took the transmission equipment and a number of tools that are essential for broadcasting.
This occurred three days after President Rafael Correa, during his No. 454 weekly broadcast, called the owner of the station, Ramiro Cueva, a “political intriguer disguised as a journalist, poisoned and a liar”, after Cueva had reported on some mismanagement involving the opening of the new Millennium Unit Bernardo Valdivieso school. Cueva defended his report on the grounds that it was duly verified and corroborated. He attributed the raid and seizure of the TV station equipment to retaliation for that news story. The media outlet has also been involved in a legal matter since September 12, 2014.
In 2014, the then National Council of Telecommunications (CONATEL), decided to “initiate the process of early and unilateral termination of the concession contract of channel 22 UHF” of Ecotel TV, entered into in August 1996 and renewed in July 2008, for alleged arrears of fees of USD 151.20 from 2002.
CONATEL used sections of the Organic Communication Law (LOC) to take away the TV station's frequency. This Provision refers to the legal authority to revert the frequencies of media outlets that have not started operating within the prescribed period; those that have not paid the fees for use of concession; those who have leased their frequencies for longer than two years, among others, for which it will take into account a report presented by the Commission for the Audit of Television and Radio Frequency Concessions of May 2009.
At the time, the reasons given by the CONATEL were rejected by the TV station's defense, who argued that it is not possible to be judged based on a law that was nonexistent at the time when the infringement was allegedly committed, considering that LOC has been in force since June 25, 2013, while the infringement was allegedly committed in 2002. “There is no retroactivity of the law” and “there can be no regressive action that unjustifiably impairs or annuls the exercise of rights”, say their written submissions. For this motive, the media outlet had filed a request for a protective action, which was rejected on January 7, 2015 by a judge of the Provincial Court of Loja.
Ramiro Cueva announced in a video that was broadcast online and on social networks that they will exercise the constitutional right to resistance and return to the air “soon”. He also stated that they will stay in the TV station's premises and will spend the night there if necessary.
This is not the first time that operations have been mounted against this station. On December 5, 2013, a police operation raided EcotelTV's facilities in the early morning hours, to seize some equipment from the former EcotelRadio station, which had stopped operating in August of that year, when a similar operation took away its relay stations' transmitting equipment.
The Oslo Times