#media reform
LectureHop: Rafael Correa at the World Leaders Forum

"You criticize the president, and nothing happens to you. You mistreat your dog, and you go to jail. Very interesting country."

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is a polarizing figure—he brought political stability to a country that had cycled through eight leaders in just ten years, but his record on free speech remains spotty at best, which has not endeared him to PrezBo. Bwog Daily Editor and resident expert on 21st century socialism, Jed Bush, reports on a World Leaders Forum discussion of freedom of the press in Ecuador.

President Bollinger (an old hand at this free speech stuff) opened the event praising Correa as a popular social reformer, noting the marked increase in the standard of living in Ecuador as well as improvements to infrastructure during his presidency. He then went on the attack, calling into question the censorship of the Ecuadorian press and the many human rights complaints that have been lodged against Ecuador. Correa smiled and shrugged at the various plaudits and accusations thrown his way, but quickly fired back once he took the stage. “Mr. President Bollinger, you’re wrong,” Correa announced, denying the accusation that it is illegal in Ecuador for the media to criticize the government.

That key distinction between “opinion” and “lie” was a recurring theme in Correa’s speech, which argued that the media may have opposing views, but “lies” are not tolerated and should be punished with jail time. Citing the American Convention on Human Rights signed in San José, he noted that in Latin America, every citizen, public or private, is entitled to their dignity and honor. His infamous lawsuit against Ecuador’s largest newspaper for libel, he explained, was not about censorship of the press, but protecting the rights and dignity of public officials and the upholding of common law. He acknowledged that slander is not punished by jail time in the United States, but emphatically denounced the idea that the United States should set the moral compass for the world, garnering enthusiastic applause from the audience.
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Navel-Gazing for a Cause

sdfThe guest list read like a who’s who of journalism: a J-School dean, the Associated Press Executive Director, a former TIME magazine Editor-in-Chief, publishers, professors…and Walter Cronkite. The audience was probably more illustrious than your average lecture-hall crowd, too. Only one person there had any executive power to do anything, but free speech is always good, right?

The “Media Reform” buzzword has been bandied about liberally in the last few years, but even those leading lights of journalism weren’t able to come up with a definition of what it really means at today’s Media Reform conference, a succession of panels convened in the J-School’s third floor auditorium. The venerable Walter Cronkite, speaking to a reverential silence that overlooked a decline in his diction since his days on the air, intoned against the “sound bite culture that turns political campaigns into political theater,” while Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen warned of a “crisis of democracy” brought on by media consolidation (although his own Seattle Times company owns six papers in two states). The main contrarian, Northeastern University professor Ben Compaine, argued for a pure free-market approach–but noted that he felt like “Ahmadinejad walking into a synagogue in Tel Aviv” sitting in a room full of public interest-oriented scriveners. (more…)