LatinNews Daily - 13 November 2023

US hails repeal of El Salvador media crackdown law

El Salvador: On 2 November the US government expressed support for the recent decision by El Salvador’s congress to repeal a law that criminalised media reporting of gang messages. US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols, who met with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele on 26 October, welcomed the decision “to remove restrictions on media reporting on messages generated by gangs”. The US embassy in El Salvador also praised the decision as a “positive step”. On 1 November El Salvador’s unicameral legislature repealed two clauses of the controversial article 345-C of the federal penal code, passed in April 2022 following a spike in gang-related violence, which criminalised the publication of messages relating to gangs in the country and sparked press freedom concerns. According to a statement from El Salvador’s congress, which is dominated by President Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas (NI) party, the regulation was originally passed at a time when the country was experiencing a “war against gangs” and the decision to repeal it was due to the “effectiveness of the government’s security strategies”. When the law was initially passed in 2022, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had expressed concerns, saying it lent itself to “attempts to censor the media, prevent reporting on corruption … and silence critics of the Salvadorean government”. While the US has celebrated the repealing of the clauses, El Salvador’s journalists’ association, Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (Apes), was less optimistic, stating the law had created a “permanent stigmatisation of journalists”.

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