Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa is famously sensitive to criticism. In February, he made headlines in the US after clapping back at HBO’s John Oliver, who mocked the president’s habit of calling out teenage social media critics in his weekly national addresses.
Now, Correa finds himself at the center of even more social media ridicule, after he unwittingly posed in a picture next to a kid wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt with an arrow pointing directly at the president.
The picture, posted online with an #IAmWithStupidMashi hashtag, immediately blew up on Twitter, generating tons of memes and jokes.
But although the gaffe was widely covered in international media, it looks like Ecuador’s biggest papers may have been silenced on the matter. For example, El Comercio‘s April 8th article “La camiseta de un niño junto a Correa desata una batalla en redes sociales,” is now mysteriously missing from its website. The link to the article loads a blank page, and the only way access it is through Google’s cache. El Comercio competes against El Universo for the largest print distribution in Ecuador, and El Universo’s website makes no mention of the t-shirt story either.
This should be no surprise, given that Correa’s assault on freedom of the press is a widely known fact. Critics have called his presidency “the most comprehensive and ruthless assault on free media under way in the Western Hemisphere,” and it looks like the censorship has made it to the internet. In December of 2014, the Human Rights Watch released an article originally published in El País, noting that “Over the past year, several Ecuadorians have seen content mysteriously disappearing from their personal Facebook pages, YouTube video channels, or Twitter accounts. The contents that vanished address a wide array of topics. However, they have only one thing in common: they criticize, mock, or expose the Ecuadorian government.”