El Salvador: El Faro newspaper closed site for one day to protest Nayib Bukele’s censorship

The text published on the El Faro website, which replaced the news with a protest against the censorship of President Nayib Bukele
The text published on the El Faro website, which replaced the news with a protest against the censorship of President Nayib Bukele

After the El Salvador government approved the penal code reforms a to imprison anyone who disseminates information that allegedly reproduces the messages of the gangs, the Central American country’s journalists have taken several measures to express their concern.

In the case of the diary The lighthouseThursday launched an unprecedented protest measure in its 24-year history, which involves the closing your website for a whole day, in the rejection of the censorship.

When readers try to access your web page, they find a message on a black background under the title: No to censorship: “For many years, in this space our readers have found a critical journalism and with a declared intention of understand the political and social phenomena that determine the lives of Salvadorans and Central Americans”Begins the press release.

An image depicts deputies from El Salvador during an extraordinary session of Congress in which the Assembly issued the exceptional regime, after the criminal wave that resulted in a high number of killings in recent days (REUTERS / Jessica Orellana)
An image depicts deputies from El Salvador during an extraordinary session of Congress in which the Assembly issued the exceptional regime, after the criminal wave that resulted in a high number of killings in recent days (REUTERS / Jessica Orellana)

“Among these, we also explained the gangs, their origin and their excessive development in northern Central America, how they have subdued a large part of the population and also with which politicians and governments they have secretly agreed for more than a decade. Without an independent press, citizens would never have known about these pacts. Keep explaining this, keep revealing those pacts, is now a crime that can be punished up to 15 years in prison in El Salvador “, they continue.

The text also states that the reforms of the penal code are a “gag on freedom of the press and freedom of expression”. The message was replicated on all the social media of the newspaper.

“What should Salvadorans know about gangs? Nothing, according to the regime “. Keep it up.

Finally, the journalists assure us that, in a democracy, it is not the power that decides what is published and what is not.

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele speaks at police officers graduation ceremony in San Salvador (REUTERS)
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele speaks at police officers graduation ceremony in San Salvador (REUTERS)

“(The) new law, at the express request of the President of the Republic, comes when democratic life has already been dismantled and the regime tries to hide in every way its negotiations with criminal groups and its corruption”, they say.

“That’s why today, to protest this gag rule, we closed our front page. El Salvador paid a very high price for our freedoms. We cannot allow them to be taken away from us by a regime that tries to keep citizens in the dark. Tomorrow you will find here what we have done and continue to do: journalism. today we protest”, Closes the text.

El Salvador is in an emergency regime after a wave of killings in late March and, in addition to this extraordinary provision, the Congress approved, on Bukele’s proposal, the tougher sentences for gang members and approved teens trying as adults.

View of Mara Salvatrucha (MS) gang members captured in El Salvador (EFE / Oscar Rivera)
View of Mara Salvatrucha (MS) gang members captured in El Salvador (EFE / Oscar Rivera)

The new package of amendments prohibits the media from “reproducing and transmitting to the general population messages or communications originating or presumably originating from said criminal groupswhich could generate anxiety and panic in the population “.

With the initiative of Bukele, which compared his decision to the German fight against Nazism, graffiti or “any visual expression” that “convey explicit or implicit messages” by the gangs was also outlawed.

In the different communities of El Salvador it is common to observe graffiti to mark a sort of border between the areas with the presence of opposing bands.

The president of the The Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES), Cesar Fagoaga, said at a press conference on Wednesday that they are now “trying to believe in a completely wrong way that the press is, or has been, a spokesperson for the gangs.” He added that “it is not only affecting us, it is affecting the information of the population. What this reform seeks is for people to censor themselves and for us to say nothing ”.

Campaign in El Salvador against censorship of the newspaper El Faro (EFE)
Campaign in El Salvador against censorship of the newspaper El Faro (EFE)

The relationship between press and Bukele has been tense since the beginning of his administration.

APES described the penal code reforms “as a clear attempt to censor the media “. He said that the reforms “threaten the media and journalists who report a reality that the current administration, obsessed with propaganda and false declarations, tries to hide from the current administration”.

“What we are seeing is another step to violate the freedom of the press is a pure act of censorship”Added the APES rapporteur, Serafín Valencia.

“What the government and the Legislative Assembly want is for citizens do not know the reality in which they live “, said the lawyer Eduardo Escobar of the NGO Acción Ciudadana.

For his part, the criminal lawyer Tahnya Pastor explained that “the reforms establish a direct ban on the media to produce messages presumably from gangs that can generate anxiety and panic in the population “. However, he pointed out that this is not a completely open ban, since, for example, It is not forbidden to write a book about the gangs, “but it is forbidden to relay messages to confirm the control, the sovereignty of the gangs, to avoid anxieties”.

The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (REUTERS / Jose Cabezas)
The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (REUTERS / Jose Cabezas)

He explained that, with these reforms, those who use social media to publish videos of gangs in which they exhibit weapons and threaten the government and the population are penalizedor alleged curfew messages in specific areas of the country.

In addition to the changes already mentioned, a law was passed to ensure that the The state can use assets, money, firearms, securities and other assets that have been seized from criminal groups and that are in the custody of the Public Prosecutor, the police and the courts. These assets will be used to fight organized crime.

(With information from EFE and AP)

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