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-  Surface area: 21,040 sq. km.
-  Population: 6,278,000
-  Language: Spanish (official)
-  Type of State: unitary republic

EL SALVADOR - Annual report 2002

Apart from a few isolated incidents, the press freedom situation was satisfactory in 2001.

Attacks on press freedom during 2001 were perpetrated by state officials still reluctant to accept criticism from the media. State institutions responded democratically however, with speedy apologies by the chief of police for an attack by police on two journalists and with a court’s rejection of a parliamentary deputy’s complaint that his reputation had been "harmed" by the media. One disappointment was the release, for lack of evidence, of a number of suspects in the murder of journalist Lorena Saravia, meaning that the identity and motives of the person or persons who killed her may never be known.

New information on a journalist killed before 2001

The daily La Prensa Gráfica announced on 6 February 2001 the shelving of the enquiry into the 25 August 1997 murder of journalist Lorena Saravia. The eight suspects, in jail since September 1998, were freed for lack of evidence. Saravia was killed with a bullet in the head soon after leaving the studio of Radio Corporación Salvadoreña. Shortly after the killing, the station’s manager, Narciso Castillo, said she had not received any threats.

Five journalists attacked

Salomón Vásquez, a photographer with the daily La Prensa Gráfica, and a cameraman of the TV news programme "Noticias 4 Visión" were attacked on 13 September 2001 by bodyguards of Judge Edgar Amílcar Sánchez. The attack happened just before the judge went on trial for illegally exercising his profession and for use and possession of forged documents.

Rosa Fuentes and Evelin Granados, correspondents of the daily El Diario de Hoy in the eastern town of San Miguel, and William Arévalo, of the daily Más, were attacked by police on 25 November as they reported on a police operation against criminals. The police hit one of the journalists and destroyed the other’s film. A few days later, the head of the police said an enquiry was being made into the attack and apologised to the press.

Pressure and obstruction

President Francisco Flores accused the TV 12 television station on 13 February 2001 of giving a negative image of El Salvador and "discrediting the country." In previous weeks, the station had complained about what it saw as disorganisation in handing out international aid sent to El Salvador after an earthquake on 13 January. TV 12’s Milagros Vallecilos was prevented on 17 January from questioning members of the National Solidarity Commission for Distributing Aid by Fermina Cárdenas, of the presidential palace press office.

Francisco Merino, a parliamentary deputy of the centre-right Partido de Conciliación Nacional (PCN), lodged a complaint that his "honour and reputation" had been harmed by Alfredo Hernández, Mauricio Bolaños, Gregorio Morán and José Zometa, of the daily La Prensa Gráfica. The paper had reported that Judge Ana María Guzmán Morales, who was handling a lawsuit against the deputy, had been threatened by him. Camila Calles, of the daily El Mundo, was targeted for the same reason by Merino, who cited Article 400 of the Penal Code which permits "prosecution by the state in the event of offences against the honour of a state official." A court in San Salvador rejected Merino’s complaint on 1 April.

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see also
Annual report 2002

Hard times for press freedom
Africa annual report 2002
Asia annual report 2002
Europe annual report 2002
Maghreb / Middle-East annual report 2002