El Salvador

Report to the Midyear Meeting 2019
March 29 to 31
Cartagena, Colombia
The press has been the target of strong aggressions in the last six months through armed attacks, blockages of coverage of the elections, online threats by sectors linked to the new pro-government political forces and legal citations for the publication of news about corruption in the power sector.
El Salvador Journalists Association's Monitoring of Attacks Upon Journalists Center and the Attorney General's Office for Defense of Human Rights (PDDH) recorded 24 violations of the exercise of freedom of expression and of the press during the February 3 elections.

The most recurring events were the blockage of journalists by the authorities at the voting centers (17 cases), a physical attack, an online attack and other lesser incidents. The principal ones pointed at were the Municipal Electoral Boards and the Vote Reception Boards, which were denounced in 14 cases, and the National Civil Police with three denunciations.

Journalists of various media have been harassed by leaders or members of political parties, who have reacted aggressively and intolerantly when they have been questioned about various facts. On February 7 the head of the Grand Alliance for Unity (GANA), Andrés Rovira, had a knee-jerk reaction to journalists when they questioned him about the participation of his party in the Nayib Bukele government cabinet.

On January 17 the Secretary General of the Nuevas Ideas party, Federico Anliker, reacted angrily when he was questioned if the over-watchers of urns would be named by his political group or by GANA, the party for which Bukele went to the elections. Anliker criticized the media for indications that Bukele was said to have copied academic texts in order to present them in his government plan.

On December 7 the online newspaper El Faro reported that a journalist of that media outlet and another one of La Prensa Gráfica were intimidated by Nuevas Ideas sympathizers that went close to Anliker to interview him about the raid by his militant followers on the installations of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Journalist Blanca Archila of the Diario El Mundo newspaper reported that she was attacked by security officers of Defense Minister General David Munguía Payés, when she attempted to approach him at a voting center. The guards pushed her away.

La Prensa Gráfica and El Diario de Hoy continued to be the target of online threats through social media by people close to the new government. Erika Saldana, an El Diario de Hoy columnist, reported threats for having referred to President-elect Nayib Bukele.

From the lucas@chichontepec22 Twitter account threats were made to La Prensa Gráfica and El Diario de Hoy "to begin a campaign of blockage of all your digital platforms" as "the people already had democratically elected Nayib Bukele." One day after Bukele's election another Facebook site linked to the President-elect, La Britany, wrote that both media outlets "kneel before Nayinb Bukele."

Digital mobs achieved that Facebook remove an editorial of the José Simón Cañas Central American University (UCA), a critic of Bukele that joined Facebook in 2010. Some days ago, for the first time since then, a sector discontented with an opinion article wiped out the text on that social media, denouncing it en masse of having false motives, the study center denounced on Twitter.
Online mobs also are periodically insulting labor union leaders.

These events remind us of the cyber attacks the target of which were La Prensa Gráfica and El Diario de Hoy in 2015 by a group linked to the then mayor of San Salvador, currently the President-elect. Among the main proofs against them was a report by the United States Department of Justice and technical experts that linked them to the "Bukele contact." A court decided to absolve them because, as it said, they only acted under the orders of someone who was brought to trial. The ruling is not firm, it was appealed and is under review.

In December it was denounced that two members of that group, Sofía Medina and Andrés Ortiz Lara, were active in the Bukele campaign. The two opened a website that publishes information favorable to him.

Such as is the habitual practice on the part of the Judicial Branch under threat of detention if the journalists do not give statements as witnesses and reveal their sources, seven journalists of the magazine Factum were called on by the Attorney General's Office to testify as witnesses on the circulation of audios with conversations that involved former president Mauricio Funes, on the bribery of members of Congress during his term in office. Factum decided not to attend to the appointment, mentioning what is contained in the Constitution and the Penal Codes that guarantees the secrecy of sources.

At least five journalists suffered wounds on November 8 during fights between vendors of the Santa Tecla center and members of the Metropolitan Agents Corps. News photographer Ricardo Segura of the newspaper Co-Latino, received a gunshot and made a denunciation at the National Attorney General's Office, although the result of the investigations is not known. Journalist Óscar Machón of Diario del Mundo newspaper suffered injuries having been hit by stones, and news photographer René Estrada of El Diario de Hoy was attacked and threatened by members of the Metropolitan Agents Corps who sought to stop him from taking photos.