However, according to the International Telecommunications Union, only 29 percent of Ecuadoreans used the Internet in 2010, so even the discussion that does exist online is not available to most of the population.
And those enjoying their freedom of expression on social media worry that these outlets will be Correa’s next targets. Mena said he thinks the government is already monitoring journalists’ tweets and comments online. He explained that the state-run media has already used quotes from journalists’ twitter accounts in its reports, signaling that the government is following what journalists are writing. In November 2011, a citizen was detained for threatening Correa on Twitter, also signaling that the government is closely following the Twitter world. Pablo Villacís, director of Ecuadorean news website Ciudadanía Informada, said that he believes journalists are already self-censoring their comments on social media for fear of being monitored. “People are more careful about expressing themselves on the Internet, and it creates an atmosphere of fear in society,” he said. “It’s difficult to measure how much each journalist is trying to leave aside certain subjects that could be investigated.”
Villacís also cited a proposed communications law, now under discussion in the national assembly, which would give the government more control over the media. The proposed law would create a communications council appointed by the president and other institutions, the majority of which are under the president’s influence. The council would be authorized to impose sanctions on journalists who violate the stipulations of the 45-page law. Even though a draft posted on Ecuador’s national assembly website includes a line that reads, “this law does not regulate information or opinion that circulates on social networks,” it remains to be seen whether the government will adhere to that. After all, Donoso compared Correa’s use of Ecuadorean law against the media to an octopus. “It will try to stretch itself all over the place.”
But as Internet access expands in Ecuador, perhaps social media will remain one small opportunity for the country’s journalists to make their voices heard. “Don’t forget, in difficult times, journalists discover ways for society to express itself somehow,” said Villacís.
He wrote that on Skype.