Last Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014, 13:47 GMT

Freedom of the Press 2008 - El Salvador

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 29 April 2008
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2008 - El Salvador, 29 April 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4871f60028.html [accessed 23 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Partly Free
Legal Environment: 10 (of 30)
Political Environment: 18 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 14 (of 30)
Total Score: 42 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

Freedom of the press is protected through the constitution, and Salvadoran journalists are generally able to report freely on the news, including reports critical of the government and opposition parties. At the same time, press freedom is hindered by a lack of public transparency, reflected in the absence of freedom of information legislation. Judges have the right to restrict media access to legal proceedings for cases they deem to be in the public interest or of national security importance. Another provision in the criminal code that allows judges to close court proceedings if they determine that the publicity will prejudice a case is considered by some media groups to limit press freedom, according to the U.S. State Department. In March, the Legislative Assembly introduced a motion to subject staffers to a polygraph test in order to identify individuals who had leaked information to media of a salary increase for legislators, but withdrew the request after vocal public opposition.

Although El Salvador is generally a safe place to practice journalism, one journalist was killed and others suffered physical attacks because of their work in 2007. In September, radio journalist Salvador Sánchez Roque was murdered by a group of unidentified gunmen near his home in the Soyapango. Sánchez Roque, who had been threatened days prior to the killing, had reported on abuses committed by local criminal gangs. In October, three journalists were assaulted during clashes between the police and local residents in Santa Ana department while covering a local rally against the construction of a garbage landfill. In addition, representatives of the San Salvador-based newspaper El Mundo said they had received anonymous calls in the newsroom with death threats at the time it published articles on corruption and on presidential candidacies.

In one of the most controversial cases, journalist María Haydee Chicas, a NGO journalist, was arrested along with 13 individuals during a July demonstration in the northeastern city of Suchitoto and charged with committing an "act of terrorism." Chicas traveled to Suchitoto to report on a protest gathering against government plans to privatize water distribution in the region. Although Chicas was granted a provisional release later in the month, the government did not lift the charge of engaging in terrorism

According to the Journalists' Association of El Salvador (APES), there is a continuing problem with self-censorship in the news media. Furthermore, APES says that the government would not place ads in news organizations with a different "ideology", such as the case of the newspaper Co Latino.

There are five daily newspapers that each have a circulation of approximately 250,000, but most of the country depends on privately-owned television and radio networks for the news. Limited resources prevent many media outlets from producing to their full capacity, and self-censorship is often exercised to avoid offending media owners, editors, and government officials. There were no reported government restrictions on the internet in 2007, and access has grown in the last five years to just under 10 percent of the population.

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