Ecuador's government cancels widely criticized plan to shut down independent press watchdog

Ecuador's communications secretariat has halted proceedings to shut down the country's last remaining independent press watchdog, Fundamedios, nearly three weeks after saying it would be dissolved due to alleged partisan political activities.

The closure announcement was broadly condemned as censorship by international human rights and press freedom groups and the U.S. government.

Communications Secretary Fernando Alvarado said in a statement Friday that his office was heeding a request by Ecuador's national ombudsman.

Fundamedios director Cesar Ricaurte called the decision a victory for democracy and human rights. He said international and national support were crucial to the government's reversal.

President Rafael Correa has had an adversarial relationship with independent media since first taking office in 2007. The leftist economist accuses them of being biased mouthpieces of what he calls Ecuador's oligarchy.