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El Salvador27 August 2002

President calls for national defence law to be changed

President Francisco Flores said today he had sent the national defence bill back to parliament with a request that its article 25 be changed to conform with international agreements signed by El Salvador. In its present form, the bill obliges journalists to reveal their sources.

"We understand that the country needs, in times of crisis, to have as much information as possible," he said, "but gathering it must never open the door to abuses of power towards the media."

22.08.2002 - National defence law threatens confidentiality of sources

Reporters without borders expressed concern about the implications for press freedom of the national defence bill, approved by the Legislative Assembly on 15 August. According to Article 25 of the text, journalists may be forced to reveal their sources. "All journalists have the right to have the confidentiality of their sources respected," stated Reporters without borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard in a letter to President Francisco Flores. Ménard added that "any journalist interrogated in connection with information obtained while on duty [has] the right to not reveal the source," and that "no one can oblige the journalist to do this." Reporters without borders asked the president to ensure that Article 25 is modified accordingly.

Reporters without borders recalled that according to Principle 8 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), "Every social communicator has the right to keep his/her source of information, notes, personal and professional archives confidential".

Article 25 of the national defence law, adopted on 15 August by the Legislative Assembly, stipulates that "in matters pertaining to national defense, government officials, public or municipal authorities, members of the court and private individuals will be required to provide the information required by the governmental department in question". The El Salvador Journalists’ Association (Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador, APES) noted the lack of a clear definition of the notion of "national defence" and lamented the fact that the interpretation and application of the law will be left up to the discretion of the executive.

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