Intimidation of activists and journalists in El Salvador

Association

On 27th May 2019, activists from Colectiva Amorales received subpoenas from a Salvadorian court; they are accused of slander by Professor Ricardo Mendoza of the University of San Salvador. Colectiva Amorales is an organisation that uses art to publicly denounce cases of violence against women. In 2016 the movement denounced Mendoza for taking advantage of his role and status as a theatre professor to sexually assault his students. Colectivo Amorales issued a statement asserting that this recent court case is an attempt to censor and silence human rights defenders. Human rights organisations such as IM-Defensoras and Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres (Centroamerican Women's Fund) have expressed their solidarity and concern.

Expression

On 17th March 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted the annual report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. The report remarks on numerous cases of threats and attacks against journalists by public officials in El Salvador. IACHR also highlights the precarious work conditions for women journalists, who are frequently exposed to sexual harassment and verbal violence affecting their work. El Salvador appears at 81st place in this year's World Press Freedom Index, a fall of 15 places compared to 2018. Reporters Without Borders, responsible for the Index, observes that freedom of press in El Salvador has deteriorated in particular due to armed attacks, harassment and intimidation led by political figures. According to the analysis from Reporters Without Borders, hostility to journalists in the country often leads to an environment of fear and to self-censorship.  

Following President Nayib Bukele's inauguration in the beginning of June, the Mesa de Protección a Periodistas (Journalists Protection Committee) expressed concern at the limitations imposed on the press by the new administration. They list a number of worrisome actions, including a lack of open press conferences, restrictions in journalistic coverage, stigmatising comments made against journalists and media vehicles, and smear campaigns on social media. El Salvador' Journalists Association has also published warnings of multiple attacks against journalists in different parts of the Central American country in recent months. For example, on the 13th May, two journalists were attacked by a police agent when trying to record a violent incident in La Carmenza.

Peaceful Assembly

In March and April, communities in the San Salvador metropolitan area protested against the interruption of drinking water services in their regions. In Soyapango the demonstrators blocked passage through key routes multiples times in April. While some of these demonstrations had police presence, protests took place without any complications.

On 25th April, Army veterans and civil war combatants gathered in front of the Ministry of Interior to protest alleged irregularities in the use of public resources by the commission managing projects for their sector. During the protests, demonstrators burned flags of then-President Sánchez Cerén's FMLN party. No police confrontation was reported.