\"** ECUADOR. ECUADOR SEIZES THREE TELEVISION STATIONS, A RADIO STATION
Ecuador yesterday seized three television stations and closed a radio station, in a move opposition leaders said was part of President Rafael Correa’s effort to muzzle media ahead of a September constitutional referendum. Police took over the studios of Gamavision, TC Television and a cable TV station, as part of 200 seized properties of brothers William and Roberto Isaias, who fled the country 10 years ago in the wake of the Filanbanco bank failure. Police also shut down Radio Sucre in southeastern Guayaquil, accusing it of the illegal use of frequencies.
Authorities said the television seizures aim to collect 661 million dollars the Isaias family owes the state, but the family, through a representative, said the government was using their financial losses as a pretext to gain control of the media outlets they own. The leftist Correa said the measure was “a significant step” to compensate the victims of the family’s “bank heist,” and denied it was politically motivated.
Opposition leaders and newspapers raised an outcry over the seizures, which they attributed to Correa’s determination to have a new constitution approved in the September referendum so he can run for reelection. Ecuadoran Association of Television Channels president Nicolas Vega warned against the menace pending over the country’s freedom of speech. “What we’ve been warning for some time now is starting to happen,” he said. “Freedom of speech in the country is in danger.”
The media seizure was strongly opposed by Economy Minister Fausto Ortiz, who resigned on the issue. Correa has already appointed Vilma Salgado to replace him. Correa calmed workers of the affected media outlets, who gathered outside their workplaces Tuesday wondering about their future. Correa told them they could keep their jobs and that the government had no intention of holding on to the television and radio stations indefinitely. (Source: AFP)( July 9th, 2008 - 9:06 UTC by Andy Sennitt, Media Network blog via WORLD OF RADIO 1416, DXLD) \"
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