Supreme Court ruling strikes a blow to the right to access public information

Expression

On 23rd October, the Supreme Court of Justice issued a resolution regarding the right to access public information. The Court imposed the following restrictions on this right, namely public officials can deny a request if 1) they determine that the information requested is “not of public interest” and 2) the request represents a deliberate intent to obstruct the institution’s work and function. The Court also stated that government institutions are no longer required to provide information to the public from previous administrations. 

The Institute for Public Access to Information criticised the decision, stating that:

“We are thoroughly concerned with these types of resolutions because they don’t just harm the Institute, they harm the country. I think they will take us away from complying with international norms to which the country subscribes”.

In a separate incident, on 30th October two media companies fired at least 30 employees, including hosts, journalists and other media workers. Asociacion de Periodistas de El Salvador rejected the companies’ decision, saying that the companies favour the interests of foreign investors over employees’ rights when they were requested to take measures that would reduce operating costs. 

Two unidentified men murdered cameraman Samuel Rivas on 16th November while he was participating in a religious activity. The motives behind his murder have not yet been determined, but Rivas’ employer claims that he had never received threats and that the murder may not be linked with Rivas’ work.

Association

On 20th October 2017, Karla Avelar reported that she had requested asylum in Ireland and was not returning to El Salvador due to security reasons. Avelar is an LGBTI activist and founder of COMCAVIS Trans, the first organisation in El Salvador working for the rights of transgender women with HIV. Avelar has been a victim of physical attacks, torture, harassment, and recently threatened by gang members when they found out she was nominated for an international award. 

On 11th December, Asociacion Pro Vida reported the criminalisation of eight farmers from the city of Tacuba, Ahuachapán, who had been fighting for the right to access to water. They were accused of stealing the water, while the Association claims they were criminalised for opposing the mayor. The judge ruled against the farmers who are now required to pay a fine.

Peaceful Assembly

Three major protests took place recently in El Salvador. On 17th October, employees of El Salvador National University protested to demand an increase in the university’s budget for 2018. The protest included roadblocks and burnt tires. On 1st December, war veterans protested following the decision of the National Assembly to reduce the budget available for their retirement pensions. On 4th December, a group of taxi drivers protested against Uber. There were no reports of clashes with police at these three protests.