LatinNews Daily - 07 June 2023

EL SALVADOR: Gov’t accused of ramping up attacks on media

On 6 June El Salvador’s police (PNC) director, Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, said that reporters who had covered or investigated the secret negotiations which took place in 2012 between gangs and the government of former president Mauricio Funes (2009-2014) could face legal action.


Arriaza’s comments follow recent prison sentences handed down to Funes (in exile in Nicaragua) and his former minister of security (2011-2013) and defence (2009-2011, 2013-2019), David Munguía Payés in relation to the 2012 truce with gangs which reduced homicides – a strategy since reportedly pursued by the Nuevas Ideas (NI) populist government led by President Nayib Bukele, as broken by respected local investigative outlet El Faro. Arriaza’s remarks have been slammed by prominent journalists like Óscar Martínez of El Faro, (which in April announced it was relocating to Costa Rica, citing government harassment), as a sign that the Bukele administration is intensifying persecution of the independent press and efforts to silence media reporting of its own alleged dealings with gangs.

  • Speaking to news programme AM of state TV station Canal 10, Arriaza said politicians and journalists who covered the 2012 truce would “have to answer for their actions”.
  • Martínez tweeted yesterday that “this country would never have known about the truce without journalists, nor the multiple pacts which followed, including those by the Bukele government”.
  • The Bukele government has intensified its attacks on the independent media since declaring a state of emergency to combat gangs in March 2022. In April 2022 the NI-controlled legislature approved new measures criminalising media or journalists who “reproduce and transmit messages from or presumably from gangs that could generate unease or panic in the population” – a crime punishable with between 10 and 15 years in prison.
  • The plight facing journalists made headlines in January 2022 with the spying scandal involving the use of spyware Pegasus for illegal surveillance of journalists.

Looking Ahead: Arriaza’s comments have already drawn condemnation abroad, with Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for international NGO Amnesty International, tweeting that the Bukele government is “continuing its persecution of independent journalism”. They represent a further threat to press freedom in the country, which the latest (May 2023) press freedom index by NGO Reporters without Borders showed continuing to slide down its rankings, coming in at 115 out of 180 countries, down from 112 in 2022 and 82 in 2021.

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