Since President Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz came to power on Aug. 10, Ecuadorian journalists have complained that there has been a deterioration in official tolerance of the media that has taken a toll on press freedom.

In a televised address to the nation on Dec. 1, Bucaram diverged from the substance of his speech on political and economic strategy to attack the daily newspaper, Hoy, which has been one of the regime's harshest critics. Hoy has reported extensively on political patronage in the current and previous presidential administrations.

Shortly after the president's vociferous attack on the newspaper, a series of television commercials that journalists and others believed were backed by the president urged a boycott of the newspaper.

Energy Minister Alfredo Adum has also targeted Hoy for attack, publicly stating that he was buying shares in the daily newspaper with the intention of taking it over. In a letter published in the newspaper, Adum attacked all journalists, saying a journalist's life "means sitting around drinking coffee, taking on the phone, being a pain to everyone else, winning themselves a bribe from time to time and ultimately talking and writing stupidities."

Responding to the alarming press conditions in Ecuador, the International Federation of Journalists, a Caracas, Venezuela-based press group said in a statement: "The intolerance of the government and civil servants towards the media investigations, reports and criticism has systematically manifested itself in verbal public attacks, insults, smear campaigns and direct threats against journalists and media outlets."

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