El Salvador


IAPA Midyear Meeting 2018

Medellín, Colombia

Violence against journalists and attacks by those in power on news media were the principal violations of press freedom in this period, along with the proliferation of false news disseminated by unknown groups.

On November 16 there was murdered Samuel Rivas, 28, cameraman of the 21/Grupo Megavisión television channel. This took place in a popular neighborhood east of the capital city, in the town of Ilopango. He was serving in an Evangelical church when two men with the appearance of gangsters shot him nine times. Six months after the event the authorities have not arrested those responsible and have not determined the motives, although it was known that once Rivas had been followed by unidentified persons.

The journalists that cover gang activities tend to be regarded as "informers" of the authorities, thus the risks to which they are exposed.

The judiciary has kept in impunity the case of a series of cyber attacks on the website of the newspapers La Prensa Gráfica and El Diario de Hoy.

Five persons accused of carrying out these acts, several of them linked to the mayor of San Salvador, Nayib Bukele, were acquitted by a Santa Tecla court, alleging that the one who wrote the false texts on fraudulent pages of the websites was not brought to justice and that the participation of the others was not personalized.

Andrés Ricardo Ortiz Lara, Mayra Lisseth Morán Lemus, José Carlos Navarro Martínez, Óscar Alejandro Domínguez Ruiz and Sofía Verónica Medina Pérez were acquitted of document alteration, unlawful association, violation of copyright and violation of commercial logos, offenses which according to the court could not be proved.

Sofía Medina is the mayor's communication chief, while the others were working for a firm hired by the community, supposedly, to make advertising in online media.

The authorities sidelined conclusive proofs in the process, as a report of the United States Justice. Department that revealed the purchase of domains in order to commit plagiarism of the pages and those involved.

The attacks were carried out in July 2015, after both media denounced the hiring of members of Mayor Bukele's family in key posts.

The country wound up a legislative and municipal elections process. The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) provided ample information and facilities to the media, but the effort did not prosper as there were produced some 25 incidents, according to the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES).

The APES said that many journalists suffered setbacks for entering the voting centers, verbal threats and attempts at physical aggression.

Given the wave of homicides and violence the government has centralized public security communications in a big structure that brings together the areas of information and the press, among them that of the National Civil Police.

The structure, called "War Quarters" or "The Bunker," counters information about crimes that is published in the media. In addition it emphasizes the government's "achievements" in this matter.

There is concern that this body turn into an organism of propaganda and limit media access to information. It is not known who is the director, but it emerged that it is in the charge of former guerrillas who were runnning clandestine media of the governing party FMLN during the war in El Salvador (1980-1992).

In the country there has proliferated false news through media of doubtful origin, some linked to those in power, whether they be public or municipal officials, and even groups linked to the security apparatus, who appear to be serious and committed to the truth. The phenomenon has been observed in social media, which have turned into the scene of false information in order to discredit persons or institutions or to distort facts. Often they announce and carry out extrajudicial executions or abuses of authority against gangsters and delinquents.

The Democracy Transparency and Justice Foundation (DTJ), with the support of the Grand Duke of Luxemburg, has drawn up a bill for a "Law for the protection of journalists and defenders of human rights." The Attorneys Office for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), the National Attorney General's Office and the peace tribunals will be in charge of implementation of the law.

On April 12, El Salvador's newspaper and advertising media issued a joint statement on a decision of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE)that "based on ambiguities and direct mandates, restricts freedom of expression and information and leads to the application of prior censorship and self-censorship. "

The media guilds have asked the TSE to clarify this resolution. The magistrates of the Court have said that they will review it and are open to rectification. "