Ecuadorean dictator Rafael Correa taketh, and he giveth back

With international condemnation raining down on him after his blatant attacks on the free press, Ecuadorean dictator Rafael Correa has decided to retreat from his assault on press freedoms in Ecuador… for now, at least.

Via Americas Forum:

Under international pressure, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa pardons journalists

QUITO – Under withering international condemnation for his attacks on freedom of the press in Ecuador, Rafael Correa announced today that he was issuing a presidential pardon for the four persecuted journalists of El Universo, as well as the two authors of “Big Brother,” a book that exposed corruption in the Correa administration, mostly by the president’s brother. The three directors and the editorial page editor of El Universo had been given prison sentences of three years each and a fine of $40 million for an editorial that the president didn’t like, and the two book authors had been fined $1 million a piece for their work uncovering corruption.

Correa had been universally condemned for his assault on independent media in his country, with blistering editorials from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as from a multitude of international newspapers. On Sunday, the San Francisco Chronicle actually agreed with the original El Universo article that Correa was a “dictator.”

Correa, a far-left politician that has embraced Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has set about undermining his country’s democratic institutions to maintain power and to be able to rule unchecked by the normal system of checks and balances. The Committee to Protect Journalists called this a “new wave of oppression by elected rulers, who have confused democracy with elections, which they have made a mere instrument for the seizing of power and to cloak the arbitrariness of an illegal judicial system.”

After passing laws that gave him effective control over the judiciary, Correa recently pushed through legislation that would ban political reporting by the independent media, while the vast government-owned media apparatus that has been created since he took office would remain free to promote the government’s agenda, as well as Correa’s candidates and programs.

The State media apparatus has gone from a single radio station when Correa took office to over fifteen today, and many of those were “expropriated” from political rivals who have been subjected to Correa’s stacked judiciary when trying to obtain redress.

Correa’s pardoning of six journalists is an obvious response to the overwhelming negative publicity that the affair was bringing not only to himself and his regime, but to the other autocratic leaders in the region. But there remains a number of other journalists that are being persecuted by Correa whose names are less known in the international media. It will remain to be seen whether the tyranny against journalists and freedom of the press in Ecuador has ended when those lesser-known journalists can write and speak freely without provoking the arbitrary wrath of an increasingly despotic regime.