Ecuador government seizes three TV stations
The Ecuadorian government Tuesday justified
the seizure of three television stations and more than 100 other companies
belonging to Grupo Isaias, as an attempt to recover more than 661 million
dollars in debt.
Grupo Isaias is one of the largest business groups in Ecuador. Some of its owners live in the United States and are wanted for fraud and tax evasion in Ecuador.
Police occupied the offices of TC Television, the largest station in the country , Gamavision and CN3, in the early hours of Tuesday.
Carlos Bravo, manager of the government's Deposit Guarantee Agency that ordered the move, denied that the seizures were a violation of freedom of expression or were an electoral ploy ahead of a national referendum on the draft of a new constitution.
He promised that jobs would not be lost and that the affected media would continue to operate with independence.
Also on Tuesday, Wilma Salgado took oath as the new economy minister in the presence of President Rafael Correa, replacing Fausto Ortiz, who refused to sign the seizure warrant because he disagreed with its legal underpinnings, according to media reports.
"The disposition to confiscate is an administrative order with which workers' stability is safeguarded," Salgado said as she took the oath of office.
The business group's debts allegedly stem from the country's financial crisis of 2000, which resulted in the bankruptcy of 60 per cent of Ecuador's financial sector.
The seizure of the television channels was relatively peaceful, but officials met with angry protests from 400 media employees who feared for their jobs.
Gamavision president Carlos Dassum denounced the action as an attack on freedom of expression.
TC Television employees said in a statement that the move is similar to the controversial closure of RCTV by Venezuelan authorities last year.
On Saturday, President Correa had promised there would be no action taken against the channels, dpa reported.