El Salvador

In mid-December an amendment to the Penal Code went into effect which annulled imprisonment for libel or defamation and substituted fines, in addition establishing a ceiling for civil damage awards ranging from the equivalent of 50 days’ to 360 days’ wages. The amendment also embodies criteria that a judge should use in dealing with such cases. In November a number of news media and organizations involved in press activity appointed a legal team to draft a bill for a Law on Right of Reply, with the aim of neutralizing similar bills introduced by the government and the governing FMLN party, which would restrict the work of the press. This new bill, which includes responsibilities for digital publications, was sent in December to the Congress, where it is under study by the Legislation and Constitutional Matters Committee, whose work is due to begin again on May 1 following election of legislators. It was reported that the trial will begin shortly concerning the murder of cameraman Alfredo Hurtado, killed in April 2011 aboard a public bus. In February, El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes signed the Declaration of Chapultepec during a visit by an IAPA international delegation.