International seminar on new Ecuadorian communications law ends in Quito
UNESCO's Office in Quito, in collaboration with the International Centre for the Advanced Study of Communication in Latin America (CIESPAL), hosted an international seminar entitled 'Towards the Construction of a Communications Law in Ecuador'. The seminar took place in Quito (Ecuador) from 24 to 26 August 2009, several months ahead of the final law that is constitutionally scheduled to be adopted by October this year.
The event brought together policy makers, international experts, civil society, community media, as well as academics and practitioners in the communication field, to provide informed input to the communications law under consideration.
The seminar succeeded in serving as a platform for collaboration, and in addressing key communication issues of national importance, notably broadcast regulation and the right to information.
The law drafting process has highlighted political tensions and intense debates over the direction of freedom of expression in the country, particularly regarding the regulatory mechanisms for broadcast frequency allocations as well as the status of right to information already guaranteed under Ecuadorian law. Several frequency allocation strategies were presented in an effort to work towards the access, pluralism and independence defined by international best practice.
The seminar aimed to balance demands from civil society with standards of international best practice, providing a forum where working discussions about the law could proceed in a politically-neutral manner, thus consolidating the participation of different sectors of Ecuadorian society.
By now, several draft law proposals have been formally sent to Parliament for consideration. The proposals stem from different social groups and should be now merged into one final text to be approved by October this year.
The seminar also served as an occasion for the public launch of UNESCO's newly-released study The Right to Information in Latin America: A Comparative Legal Survey, which compares and analyzes the existing right to information laws in eleven Latin American countries. The study's author, Toby Mendel (Canada) presented his work to the public and explained the legal mechanisms that facilitate the successful implementation of an access to information law.
A recent monitoring exercise in Ecuador conducted by Fundamedios with UNESCO's support reveals that the access to information law in this country is still far from being implemented.