El Salvador

EL SALVADOR The climate for freedom of the press continues to improve in El Salvador following the signing of the Chapultepec peace pact by the government and rebel forces in January. On August 1, the National Department of Communications advised members of the Association of Journalists of El Salvador it would not longer issue credentials to journalists. Since then, only the media issue credentials. With this, El Salvador, in this sense, adopts the positions of the Inter American Press Association and the Inrer-American Broadcasting Association, n the government document announcing the decision stated. In June, El Diario de Hoy journalists were attacked as they took photos of teachers eating while supposedly on a hunger strike. Cameras and press credentials were snatched and the journalists threatened with further reprisals. In the last few months, the government has authorized the operation of three new television channels, one of them with an Christian evangelist format. The Jesuit run Central American University and the private Technological University have begun operating radio stations. A sub-committee of the "Committee for the Consolidation of Peace" (Conipaz) has revived a bill which threatens freedom of expression. The project had been shelved during the Napoleón Duarte administration because of fierce opposition from the media and private associations. The bill would establish a "right to reply," based on purely subjective criteria. The Secretary of Information would be empowered to make judgements about alleged violations of free speech, to convict or acquit journalists and media involved, and to force editors to publish or broadcast articles, editorials and other matter without making changes of any kind. The bill would also permit the media to refuse paid advertisements. It declares that the only valid press credential would be that issued by the Information Secretary. The improper use of the press credential would be punishable by law.