El Salvador


69th General Assembly

Denver, Colorado

October 18 – 22, 2013

In these past six months there was set up the Access to Public Information Institute (IAIP), a body created under the Law on Access to Information in force since May 2012. The Institute is already handling its first cases, one of the most recent involving Congress, making it an emblematic case on access to information. La Prensa Gráfica journalist Fernando Romero requested of Congress its list of 769 consultants. Congress has a total of 1,500 employees and more than half of them figure as consultants. However, Congress Speaker Sigfrido Reyes has refused to hand over the list. The case was settled in the Access to Public Information Institute, which ordered Congress to hand it over, but it refused to do so. The Access Institute imposed a fine of $9,000 on Congress’s Board of Directors made up of 14 members of Congress, but they have not paid it. Congress has decided to take the case to the highest authority that the Law on Access to Information stipulates in such conflicts, the Supreme Court’s Litigation Dispute Tribunal. The Access Institute has some 55 other cases against government institutions under review. One of them is a fine of $5,605.25 imposed on Eliezer Martínez Cortez, mayor of the small town of San Francisco Chinameca in La Paz province, for refusing tor provide public information. Another is against the president of Universidad de El Salvador university (the only public university in the country), Mario Roberto Lovo, who was fined $8,964 for having committed two serious offenses under the law – failure to provide information requested by a member of the public and failure to appoint that university’ Information Official. Congress passed a decree to “armor plate” candidates for President in the February 2, 2014 elections against criticisms of them, imposing fines and even imprisonment. In the end, Decree 412 was vetoed by President Mauricio Funes because it was considered to be bunlawfully against freedom of expression and regulating conduct already regulated in the Electoral Code. In August gang members were convicted for the September 2, 2010 murder of Franco-Spanish news photographer Christian Poveda. A judge sentenced to 10 years in prison three members of the self-styled Pandilla 18 gang, bringing to five those convicted of the crime. Investigations are continuing, as the authorities suspect more people are involved. In August a judge reactivated the case of attacks on and threats to journalist Jessica Ávalos by two trade unionists of the Accounts Court. The event occurred in December 2011 as Ávalos discovered that employees of that public institution were having a party during working hours. Two of those employees threatened and shoved her and grabbed her work equipment. The denunciation was made to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in December 2011 and two months ago was reviewed by a judge who determined that there are reasons to continue criminal proceedings against those two employees on charges of coercion and threats. The two accused remain out of jail while all the stages of the case up to trial are being carried out. The Accounts Court has suspended the two employees. Since September there is in effect the Special Law on Exercise of the Right of Rectification or Response. This law contemplates formal proceedings in courts in cases in which a media outlet considers it to be pertinent that a right of reply petition cannot be granted or already has been, or in the cases in which any person considers that a news media outlet has not satisfactorily provided him or her a right of reply. This legislation requires news media to maintain new legal structures in the event of legal conflicts and proceedings. A difference over a right of reply could take a case to the Supreme Court under this law.