Miami (September 18, 2010)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described as a negative precedent for free speech and press freedom the upholding of a court ruling against El Salvador newspaper La Prensa Gráfica for its having identified and published photos of a boy under 17 years of age at the moment he was committing murder.
On September 14 the San Salvador Minors Chamber upheld the April 6 order to the newspaper’s executive editor, José Roberto Dutriz, to pay a fine equivalent to 50 days’ minimum salary for having published photos and reported the identity of a minor beating another young man to death on a public street. The photos were taken on March 11 by a photographer from the newspaper, and they were also later published by other local media.
The newspaper said it planned to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, said he trusted that in the appeal to the Supreme Court “the justices will be able to better judge and have more understanding of the work of the press, as the media are often having to take decisions in which what has to prevail is the public’s right to know above other rights, such as that to privacy, to reputation and the protection of minors, which are not absolute, particularly in cases such as this.”
Aguirre declared that the fact that “such firm decisions as that taken by La Prensa Gráfica to defend its position to publish demonstrate a commitment to freedom of the press.”
The ruling by judges Edith Rivas de Avalos and Sandra Elizabeth Chorro upholding Dutriz’ conviction was criticized by news media and press organizations in El Salvador, which called it a serious threat that curtails freedom of expression. The ruling was also regretted by El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Ciro Cruz Zepeda and Supreme Court Justice Ulices del Dios Guzmán, who all called it “a mistake.”
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org