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Human rights body calls on El Salvador to protect reporters

February 6, 2021 GMT

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — An investigative news outlet in El Salvador said Friday that a decision by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights confirming it has been the victim of harassment sets an important precedent defending press freedoms in the region.

The regional body called on El Salvador’s government to take steps to protect 34 journalists at the online outlet El Faro who have faced threats and harassment.

“The commission is saying that in El Salvador there is an alarming, worrisome situation and that really the press or the reporters who do the investigative work and who have a critical function for the citizens are at risk,” said El Faro’s Deputy Editor Sergio Arauz. “What the commission also does is sound an alarm and a spotlight for the international community.”

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“It is a grand precedent in legal terms on the freedom of expression and also sends a message to all those bureaucrats accustomed to bullying and intimidating journalists,” he said.

El Faro has argued that since President Nayib Bukele took office in June 2019, its journalists have been blocked from government news conferences, threatened by government institutions, the news outlet has faced a government audit and anonymous articles appearing in government-connected outlets have waged a campaign against its work.

The commission on Thursday issued a statement calling on El Salvador’s government to adopt measures that would allow El Faro to go about its work without interference and harassment. The petition to the commission was made by the Foundation for Due Process and the Center for Justice and International Law.

Bukele’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As an outside candidate, Bukele rode a wave of popular discontent with El Salvador’s traditional parties into the presidency. His brash style includes savvy use of social media to communicate directly with his supporters. He has been criticized for sharp attacks on the press, as well as other government institutions, including the Supreme Court and congress.