While the press in El Salvador has become increasingly professional and political violence has subsided, journalists face new dangers due to a sharp growth in drug trafficking and criminal violence.

On August 25, radio newscaster Lorena Saravia became the first journalist murdered in El Salvador since the end of the civil war in 1992. No motive has been established in the execution-style slaying, and it remains unclear whether Saravia was targeted because of her work, or was merely the latest victim in the capital's crime wave.

Journalists in El Salvador who are reporting on the country's growing drug problem say that gangs moving narcotics from Colombia to the United States have become a visible presence and a potential threat to the press. Several local journalists and foreign correspondents say they have received telephone threats.

While state-directed violence against the press largely ended with the signing of peace accords in 1992, journalists report a tense relationship with the government of President Armando Calderón Sol. Journalists, who say it remains extremely difficult to obtain information about court cases, were dismayed when the congress passed a new penal code in April which grants judges discretion to limit public access in criminal cases. The law is expected to go into effect in 1998. In July, six reporters covering the arrest of a prominent businessman accused of fraud were injured in a scuffle with police.

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