El Salvador


Report - Mid-Year Meeting April 17 - 19, 2024

Journalism is experiencing increasing uncertainty and fear regarding its work in the face of a repressive regime that blocks all access to information, threatens to fire or persecute and punish internal government sources, and intimidates the few professional and technical voices that still contradict the government's propagandistic narrative.

After the presidential and legislative elections on February 4 and after the following ten days, Angélica Cárcamo, president of the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), reported that "the trend showed an increase in the restriction on journalistic work to document the final scrutiny." She recorded 173 aggressions against journalists through direct threats, movement restrictions, and expulsions from the scrutiny precincts by officials, representatives, and militants dressed in the official party, New Ideas.

The APES report details that 59 of the aggressions would have been generated by officials, and 17 violations were attributed to voting center managers and others to "trolls, bullies, and haters" that were used to harass on social networks.

"Journalists here are free; they can record, ask, go wherever they want. You move with total freedom," said President Nayib Bukele during the press conference, but, at that event, employees of the Communications Secretariat censored the questions of independent journalists and not those of the government.

The APES also recorded 91 aggressions against journalists and media outlets during the municipal and Parlacen elections on March 3.
Members of the official party attacked journalist Guillermo Martínez, from FOCOS TV, who was taking some shots at the Walter Thilo Deninger voting center in Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad department. Also, Marvin Díaz, a journalist of the media @malayerbacom, was a victim of harassment and aggression by militants of New Ideas during the scrutiny.

Other journalists attacked in the same act were Víctor Peña, from El Faro, and Carlos Hernández, from Señal Capital, who were documenting the discussion when they were also harassed.

The Prosecutor's Office continues to have plenipotentiary powers to define any citizen as a terrorist and direct supra-judicial detention in the context of the state of exception. It generated an inhibitory effect among journalists.

In the municipal elections of March 4, numerous journalists were expelled from voting centers, even in the presence of police officers. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal made a "post facto" declaration stating that everything was a "misunderstanding."

APES accused the Press Secretary of the Presidency of the Republic, Ernesto Sanabria, of "harassing" journalist and press freedom defender from APES, Sildania Murcia, who coordinates the Union's First Aid Legal Clinic.

APES explained that the professional attended a "cacerolazo for democracy," which denounced irregularities in the electoral process. From that moment, Murcia was exposed on social networks by the official, who issued "stigmatizing statements" and shared photographs of her, prompting social media users to attack her.

The incidents were recorded by the Mission of Observers from the Organization of American States (MOE/OAS) deployed in the voting centers. The Mission emphasized that all the incidents occurred due to the passivity and inaction of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal authorities.

"Simultaneously, it was observed that the ruling party exercised a dominant position at different critical stages of the electoral process and, on occasions, over the electoral institutionality. In some instances, representatives of the ruling party were observed 'giving orders' (in blatant acts of 'deus ex machina') in the provisional facilities of the TSE, in the voting centers, and the JRVs, abusively exercising their right of surveillance and performing functions that by law do not correspond to them," says the official OAS report. The Mission also reported that the ruling party assumed a "dominant and intimidating attitude" in the scrutiny.

This widespread violence against the press is becoming more common as the government has co-opted all control institutions in its favor. Acción Ciudadana (AC) warned that citizens, including the media, are further restricted from overseeing the government's management and expenses, paving the way for corruption.

"Citizens are increasingly turning away from the entity," AC warns, explaining that this is due to the rejection of information requests after they are submitted and the systematic production of unfavorable resolutions that effectively deny and block access to the public, media, and academia to the requested public documentation.

It is added to the unilateral government decisions to "reserve" or hide the handling of expenses for up to seven years in various departments related to arbitrarily named "strategic projects" and public purchases of any amount.

Restrictions on freedom of expression affected the poet Carlos Bucio Borja. As happened this time, he was detained at a voting center for reading aloud a dozen articles of the Constitution prohibiting a president from being immediately re-elected to office.