QUITO, Ecuador (AP):Investigative journalist Juan Carlos Calderon received multiple death threats after launching something rare in the claustrophobic media climate of today's Ecuador, a digital magazine exposing high-level corruption.
To Calderon, the threats were a backhanded compliment for his inaugural story in Plan V that outlined multimillion-dollar insurance fraud affecting state institutions. He brushed them off until a pair of menacing-looking men showed up at his condo complex looking for his home.
"When they get to your family, to your house, things change," he said.
Although physical attacks on journalists are rare in Ecuador, the profession faces increasing hostility, and international press freedom and human-rights groups place the blame squarely on President Rafael Correa.
The third-term president is widely popular for generously spending the nation's oil wealth on social programmes. Nonetheless, Correa has shown little tolerance for criticism.
"The president has viewed the press as the enemy from the moment he took office. He considers us his only enemy because there is no political opposition," said Janet Hinostroza, who resigned as a daily TV news anchor last year after a crescendo of threats peaked with a phone call detailing her young son's daily movements and threatening to kidnap him.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, regional director for the United States-based Human Rights Watch, said Correa's "high level of intolerance for criticism" has led to media regulations and multimillion-dollar legal judgments against journalists, all of which have intimidated the press into self-censorship and undermined freedom of expression.