El Salvador

EL SALVADOR In general, there is a noticeable opening up by the Salvadoran government to guarantee freedom of information. But, although this is an improvement over last year, it has not spread throughout the government. In some cases - in certain ministries and smaller government agencies - there have been cases of unjustified secrecy, when doors have been closed to journalists who are trying to do their job. There has been concern about limitations that are being felt because of changes to Articles 272 and 327 of the Code of Criminal Procedures, which took effect this April 20. These two articles allow the judge in a criminal trial to order all or part of the trial to be closed "when morality, public interest or national security require it." They also state that in certaln trials only the parties to the case or people who request and are granted permission to intervene will have access to the proceedings. The Salvadoran Association of Radio Stations and the Association of Salvadoran Journalists are seeking to have these paragraphs deleted. Journalists are frequently mistreated in El Salvador while trying to do their jobs. For example, on Sept. 1, Capt. Pedro Vega Turcios, a presidential security officer, struck Balmore Barrientos of Noticiero Tele2 in the face. There has been no effort to modify the requirement in paragraph 3, Article 43 of the Law of the Pension Savings System, under which any advertising campaign by the recently established Pension Administration Fund must be authorized in advance. The law could require the fund to modify or suspend the campalgns if they do not comply with the advertising regulations that have been issued. Aug. 2S was the first anniversary of the murder of news announcer Lorena Saravia of the station Radio Corporaci6n Salvadorefia. The identity of the person behind the crime is still unknown although eight people are in custody, including three members of the National Civil Police. At the beginning of October, a new chief judge took over the Fiscal Court. He quickly announced regulations stating that from now on journalists would not have access to auditing authorities and all information would have to come from him. On Oct. 23, the Supreme Court of Justice sponsored a meeting with journalists and judges of various courts to discuss how to change procedures to improve relations. No definitive conclusions were reached, but some major problems were presented, particularly evidence that more clarity in legislation is required to achieve that end.