Miami (December 15, 2021) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) rejected the insistence of the government of El Salvador to prosecute journalists for reproducing content and criminalize them for disclosing information that authorities consider confidential.
The Presidency's legal advisor, Javier Argueta, recommended three government officials sue local media journalists for defamation. Argueta determined that the journalists defamed the officials by reporting on the sanctions imposed on them by the U.S. government for acts of corruption and human rights violations.
This is not the first time Argueta has threatened to sue journalists. In September, he said he would take legal action against reporters from GatoEncerrado magazine if they refused to divulge their sources. The journalists reported that Argueta maneuvered for the Supreme Court of Justice to endorse the reelection of President Nayib Bukele.
Last week, in another development, the Legislative Assembly reformed the Law on Computer and Related Crimes, Article 25 of which punishes with between five and eight years in prison anyone who "deliberately obtains or transfers through the use of Information and Communication Technologies information of a confidential nature."
Jorge Canahuati, president of the IAPA and president of the Opsa Group of Honduras, said, "the fact that journalists can be sued for doing their job and forced to reveal their sources implies serious violations of press freedom and democracy."
Carlos Jornet, president of the Freedom of the Press and Information Committee, editor of La Voz del Interior of Argentina, warned, "criminalizing journalists by violating professional secrecy is a weapon used by governments to inhibit journalism and information sources from denouncing acts of corruption."
Canahuati and Jornet regretted that the Salvadoran government continued to impose restrictions on press freedom and called for more significant guarantees of press freedom to strengthen democracy as established in the Chapultepec and Salta declarations.
The Chapultepec Declaration warns, "No journalist may be forced to reveal his or her sources of information." Likewise, the Salta Declaration warns, "governments must not penalize criticism, information or protests against public officials regarding matters of public interest or against individuals who voluntarily expose themselves to public scrutiny."
The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Organization of American States (OAS) states in point 11: "Public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as 'desacato laws,' restrict freedom of expression and the right to information."
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.