Miami (November 12, 2021) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) warns about the adverse effects of a bill El Salvador that could jeopardize the existence of independent media and non-governmental organizations that receive financial assistance from abroad.
The "Foreign Agents Law," an initiative of President Nayib Bukele, establishes an additional 40% tax on top of other tax obligations for each financial transaction that organizations and media receive from abroad. It mainly targets those institutions that transmit "any physical, electronic or digital informative material."
The arguments of the initiative, based on principles of "non-interference" and "national sovereignty," are used by governments to muzzle critical media and human rights organizations that receive donations and contributions from abroad. Citing Nicaragua, Mexico, and Venezuela, among other countries, the IAPA warned this year about "the resurgence of the tendency to create laws that undermine the credibility of organizations that defend and promote human rights."
Jorge Canahuati, IAPA president, and Carlos Jornet, chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said that the "proposal imitates and deepens the recently created Nicaraguan law, which the government of Daniel Ortega uses to muzzle critical and independent voices."
Canahuati, president of the OPSA group of Honduras, and Jornet, journalistic director of La Voz del Interior of Argentina, added: "This is a severe limitation by the government against organizations that support social and human rights issues that depend on international support to carry out their work."
In a resolution of last April, the IAPA warned about this type of law that violates political pacts and the Inter-American jurisprudence on human rights. The IAPA recalls that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said, "States should allow and facilitate the access by human rights organizations to foreign funds within the framework of international cooperation, under conditions of transparency."
The bill was presented to the Legislative Assembly, with a government majority, on November 9 by the Minister of the Interior, Juan Carlos Bidegain. He argued, "This law will allow the defense of the country's sovereignty and prohibits foreign interference." Violators will be fined up to US$10,000 and could have their legal status canceled.
La SIP es una entidad sin fines de lucro dedicada a la defensa y promoción de la libertad de prensa y de expresión en las Américas. Está compuesta por más de 1.300 publicaciones del hemisferio occidental; y tiene sede en Miami, Estados Unidos.