Miami (September 29, 2020) .- A few weeks before its general assembly to be held from October 21 to 23, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) reiterated the serious deterioration of press freedom in El Salvador, through threats, intimidation, discrediting campaigns and fiscal harassment against the media, journalists and critical opponents; actions led by the government of President Nayib Bukele.
On September 24, President Bukele announced during a national broadcast by radio and television that the Ministry of Finance has been investigating the digital newspaper El Faro since July for alleged money laundering and tax evasion.
The government action was in apparent retaliation for El Faro's journalistic investigations; one of the most recent related to a secret negotiation by the Bukele government with the criminal organization Mara Salvatrucha, leading up to the 2021 elections. Bukele also accused other media, including the newspapers La Prensa Gráfica, Diario de Hoy and El Mundo, and the portals Factum and Gato Encerrado, of lying and attacking his government.
Prior to and after assuming the presidency, Bukele was characterized by his confrontational style against independent media and journalists. In recent months, there has been concern about the creation of a new national government media outlet using public funds, whose editorial strategy is focused on propaganda and used as a tool to attack its opponents and critical journalists. Numerous formerly independent media journalists have been hired by the Presidency.
The president of IAPA, Christopher Barnes and the president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, condemned the indirect censorship exercised by the "Executive Branch through fiscal tactics, with the intention of silencing El Faro and other independent media".
Barnes, director of The Gleaner Company (Media) Limited, Kingston, Jamaica, and Rock, director of the La Silla Rota portal, Mexico City added that "Bukele's attitude is the same practice of stigmatization and discreditation that we are observing in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela to silence the critical press."
Weeks ago, Democratic and Republican US congressmen publicly expressed their concern about the hostility of the Bukele government against the media and have questioned the rule of law in the country. At the beginning of September, the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES) registered 61 violations against the press, among them, blocking of public information and stigmatizing statements from the government.
El Faro filed a protection claim and requested precautionary measures to protect information, subscribers' data and the identity of its donors.
IAPA is a non-profit entity dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.