Area: 283,580
Population: 13,230,000.
Language: Spanish.
Head of state: President Rafael Correa.

Two unsolved murders of journalists cast a shadow over press freedom in 2006. The campaign for the November presidential elections excessively polarised the media.

Journalist José Luis León Desiderio, of Radio Minutera, was gunned down early on 14 February not far from his home in a poor neighbourhood of Guayaquil. He presented a discussion programme and his colleagues did not rule out a revenge killing, though the city is notoriously unsafe. Freelance photographer Raúl Suárez Sandoval was also killed there the same day but his murder did not appear to be linked with his work.

Assaults on press freedom have declined since the April 2005 overthrow of President Lúcio Gutiérrez and few attacks on the media occurred in 2006, apart from brutal police handling of two sports journalists on 31 May. Eight journalists were also seized for several hours by the inmates of a women's prison in Guayaquil.

The relative peace for the media may not last since the country remains very politically unstable and no president has managed to complete his term for the past decade. The media helped to make the 26 November presidential election a dirty contest, which was easily won by left-wing economist Rafael Correa. His main rival, right-wing banana magnate Alvaro Noboa, accused the TV station Ecuavisión of backing Correa and "helping to destroy the country." The atmosphere is still tense and even though the media were attacked by both sides during the campaign, it risks being targeted by those wanting to settle scores.


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