INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Broadcast Tape of Correa has Teleamazonas Feeling

Published: Tue 1 Sep 2009 05:05 PM
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000791
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: TWENTY YEARS
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KPAO EC
SUBJECT: BROADCAST TAPE OF CORREA HAS TELEAMAZONAS FEELING
THE HEAT
REF: QUITO 00437
Classified By: Ambassador Heather Hodges for Re...
id: 223201
date: 9/1/2009 17:17
refid: 09QUITO791
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09QUITO437
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000791
SIPDIS
E.O. 12958: DECL: TWENTY YEARS
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KPAO EC
SUBJECT: BROADCAST TAPE OF CORREA HAS TELEAMAZONAS FEELING
THE HEAT
REF: QUITO 00437
Classified By: Ambassador Heather Hodges for Reasons 1.4 (b, d)
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: During his latest weekly address on August
29, President Correa lashed out against the independent
television station, Teleamazonas, and what he called "a sewer
with antennas" and demanded its immediate closure following
its airing of a clandestine recording. The 2008 audio
recording, captured Correa's discussions with a PAIS assembly
member and other government officials about changes made to
the text of the constitution after it had already been
approved by the Constituent Assembly. Correa denies the
allegations and insists that Teleamazonas be shut down on
grounds that it violated the Broadcasting Law prohibiting the
broadcasting of clandestine recordings. Fernando Balda,
ex-PAIS member and instigator of the Teleamazonas' airing of
the tape, claims the recording was actually made by the
current Minister of Political Coordination. In the meantime,
the legality of a potential closure of the independent
station remains in question. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) On August 29, during his weekly public address,
Correa lashed out against the "filth" Teleamazonas and its
"conspirators" reported in his heated tirade about the
illegality of the station's airing of a clandestine audio
tape allegedly of Correa, his Minister of Political
Coordination, Ricardo Patino, and PAIS assembly member and
president of the Oversight and Political Accountability
Commission, Silvia Salgado. In the tape, the three discuss a
different version of the constitution submitted by President
Correa after the text had already left the hands of the
Constituent Assembly, prior to the September 28, 2009
referendum vote. The recording was made public on August 25,
2009, by Fernando Balda, Patriotic Society Party assembly
member and PAIS defector, on Jorge Ortiz's Teleamazonas
program. According to Balda, he took the recording to the
Prosecutor General office and made a formal complaint back in
March. After inaction by that office, he decided to make the
video public, first on You Tube in August and then on
Teleamazonas last week. Balda stated that he would present
Patino as the person behind the recording to the Prosecutor
General's office on September 1; however, no update was
available at the point of this cable's release. In his radio
address, Correa accused Balda of making the covert recording
himself and threatened him with a charge of treason and
prison for "spying on the president" and "threatening
national security."
3. (SBU) With this latest episode, Teleamazonas potentially
faces a fourth investigation and third sanction against them,
which would likely lead to the station's closure (reftel).
In his address, Correa accused the station and newsman Jorge
Ortiz of "violating the principles of ethics and breaking the
Broadcasting Law." Specifically, the article of the law in
question states that the "reproduction of clandestine videos
and/or recordings unauthorized" by those individuals in the
recording and in a manner that affects the "honor of people
consecrated in the Constitution" is cause for an infraction.
In their defense, Teleamazonas claims to have not broken any
rules since they were not involved in the making of the
recording, since the tape was made in the President's office
during official hours and since its content was made public
by Balda on You Tube as well as in the written press prior to
Tuesday's airing on Teleamazonas.
4. (C) If a formal complaint against Teleamazonas is
submitted to the regulatory body by the President, it is
unlikely to result in immediate closure. A Teleamazonas
executive told Embassy public affairs officer that if the
government does decide to bring charges against the station,
it will have to go through the formal legal procedures. Due
to the various steps and associated time limits with the
sanction process it would be "five weeks at best" before a
resolution would be reached. In light of the previous
publication of the audio clip and its transcript, the station
representative expressed concern that television is being
targeted for its power to reach the "masses."
5. (C) COMMENT: After a short period of relative calm
surrounding Teleamazonas, the recent airing of the
clandestine audio clip has Correa fuming and the station in
hot water. However, with so many questions still left
unanswered, such as who made the recording and under what
context was it made, it may be too early to gauge the
likelihood of a Teleamazonas closure, or the truth behind the
allegations against the President and his advisors.
HODGES
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