Columbia Journalism Review: In Ecuador, a Social Media Workaround

March 28, 2012 11:15 am0 commentsViews:

For three years, Ecuadorean journalist Lindon Sanmartín Rodriguez and his brother Pablo hosted a freewheeling talk radio show that analyzed the economy, wrestled with religious issues, and criticized the government of President Rafael Correa. They called it Digálo con Libertad, meaning Say it with Freedom.

But in late 2010, the Sanmartín brothers were suddenly no longer allowed to say much of anything with freedom. Radio Satélital, the privately owned radio station they worked for in their hometown of Loja, canceled their show without explanation—another apparent victim of the anti-press policies of President Rafael Correa.

Those victims are many, and in many cases the president has successfully repressed them into silence or self-censorship. For a few months, the Sanmartín brothers chose the latter option, staying on the air to do morning news reports at Radio Satélital. But the station’s managers told them to avoid saying anything negative about “friends” of the station—like the local governor, the assemblyman, or the director of a hospital who had been investigated for corruption. As restrictions tightened, the brothers felt they could no longer do their jobs effectively. So last March, they both quit.

“I would not be pressured to change my journalistic criteria and praise corruption,” Lindon Sanmartín wrote in an e-mail interview. “I’d prefer to stay home.”

Staying home does not mean staying silent, though. While he and his brother have been working to get airtime from another radio station, Lindon Sanmartín has been making use of social media. He and his brother can now be heard via an online radio station and read on his blog and his active Twitter feed, where he provides his Loja audience with aggregated international headlines, national and regional news, and opinion articles. The blog is headlined by his name, along with the tagline, “official site for information from the province of Loja, Ecuador, and the world.” Read More…