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  • Tech Journalist

Exploding USBs were used to target journalists in Ecuador

In recent years, Ecuador has become a hub for the global drug trade, with the country's president, Guillermo Lasso, declaring a state of emergency over drug trafficking in 2021. The number of homicides in the country has also increased significantly since 2020, indicating a failed attempt to curb violent crime.

A recent incident in Ecuador involving the explosion of USB devices at media outlets has raised concerns about the safety of journalists and press freedom in the country. According to reports, at least five media outlets received threatening envelopes containing unknown USB devices, which caused explosions when plugged into computers.

The incident occurred when a journalist at Ecuavisa, a local TV station, plugged an unknown USB device into his computer, causing an immediate explosion. The explosion caused slight injuries to the journalist's hand and face. However, reports suggest that the injuries were not serious and the journalist is in good health overall.

Following the incident, the prosecutor's office opened an investigation into terrorist activity, citing multiple threats to local TV and radio stations. A non-governmental organisation advocating for press freedom, Fundamedios, detailed a few of the cases that followed the same modus operandi.

Lenin Artieda from Ecuavisa received an envelope with an unknown USB device, which he plugged into his computer, resulting in an explosion. The letter contained a threatening note, but it's unclear from the reports whether Artieda had read it before plugging in the explosive device.

Mauricio Ayora from TC Televisión also received an envelope with an unknown USB device but decided not to plug it in and simply left it in the office. After learning about the explosion at Ecuavisa, the journalist contacted the police. The letter contained a message from a "political group," according to Fundamedios.

Milton Pérez from Teleamazonas decided to plug in the device since the note that arrived with it hinted there was some useful information on the drive. Luckily, he didn't connect the USB drive properly, and it didn't explode. The police confirmed this flash drive also contained explosives.

A similar envelope was also sent to the office of Exa FM radio station. It was connected to the computer via an external cable. While it didn't explode, police have since confirmed it contained explosives.

The incident has been widely condemned, with Fundamedios calling it a "new escalation in violence against the press. "The organisation has described the incident as "worrying, unacceptable, in violation of freedom of expression and requiring the immediate intervention of the state."

The incident has raised concerns about the safety of journalists and press freedom in the country. Journalists and media outlets play a critical role in providing the public with accurate and unbiased information, and any attempt to silence them through violence is a direct attack on democracy.

It is essential for the Ecuadorian government to take immediate action to protect journalists and media outlets from such attacks. The authorities must investigate these incidents thoroughly and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The government must also take steps to address the root causes of violence in the country, including drug trafficking and violent crime, to ensure the safety of all citizens, including journalists.


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