Not all speech is free: Julian Assange asylum contrasts with Ecuadorean media conditions
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Not all speech is free: Julian Assange asylum contrasts with Ecuadorean media conditions

As Julian Assange completes his third year in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, the South American country remains removed from the legal battle over the WikiLeaks founder, who has been living at the embassy since being granted political asylum in 2012 while facing extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.

“The solution is in the hands of Great Britain and Sweden… They can solve the problem tomorrow,” President Rafael Correa said on the eve of the anniversary.

“I don’t justify what Assange did, but this isn’t why we granted him asylum. We granted Assange asylum because there wasn’t any guarantee of a fair trial,” Correa added.

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Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, has said that Sweden is violating Assange’s human rights, following its delay in deciding whether the journalist can testify from the embassy, Telesur reported.

“The Ecuadorean authorities are presently evaluating this request in the spirit of judicial cooperation, a characteristic of the government of Ecuador, and as part of the obligations and powers under International Law while taking into account the Ecuadorean jurisdiction in regard to the asylee,” Ecuador wrote on its government website.

Following Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny canceling her appointment to meet Assange at the London embassy, the asylee looks set to remain where he is, for now.

Yet in an ironic twist, while the country claims to support Assange’s commitment to freedom of speech, 198 Ecuador-based media outlets have been sanctioned for breaking a controversial communication law, passed by Correa in 2013.

“Of the 1,144 media outlets which we have registered… we have sanctioned 198,” Carlos Ochoa, CEO of Supercom, the government entity that oversees information and communications in Ecuador, told El Tiempo.

To date, the governing body has levied 313 sanctions, of which 185 were monetary. Of the $274,000 owed in fines, Supercom has received close to $202,000.

“The most common infractions are related to content,” Ochoa added.

Ecuador’s El Universo and La Hora newspapers are reported to be “in resistance” to the new law. Both are considered “opposition” by Correa’s government.

Even as Assange continues his stint in the London embassy, Correa appears to have a very different agenda for media closer to home.

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