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ARTICLE 19 submits report on freedom of expression in El Salvador to UNHRC

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 4 July 2003 ARTICLE 19 statement:

ARTICLE 19 has submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Committee on the protection of freedom of expression in El Salvador.

The report states that despite El Salvador's constitutional recognition of freedom of expression, in practice it is regularly flouted. As actors in a very young democracy, Salvadoran politicians have not yet accepted that they should be open to greater criticism than ordinary figures and frequently threaten journalists with criminal lawsuits for defamation. There is no recognition of the right to access information held by public authorities and little movement towards the introduction of legislation to that effect. On the contrary, a lingering culture of secrecy and authoritarianism within government institutions has led over the last few years to the introduction of different pieces of legislation that tend to obstruct access to information. Journalists also continue to suffer physical violence and harassment, including by the police. The perpetrators of these attacks are rarely brought to justice.

The media themselves have, over the last decade, become increasingly homogenised. This is particularly true of television broadcasting, where few independent voices are left in a sector dominated by commercial interests and foreign investors with close ties to the government. Worryingly, the present government also appears to have embraced financial tactics to "punish" media for critical reporting, most notably by instituting advertising boycotts. The overall effect of this has been to seriously hinder independent and critical reporting in El Salvador. Commentators have gone so far as to say that "nowadays the government does not use authoritarian mechanisms of censorship or repression, but it participates in advertising boycotts and corporative alliances that diminish the practices for freedom of expression."

The ARTICLE 19 submission elaborates on these concerns in detail, offering suggestions and recommendations for improvement throughout.

The submission can be found at http://www.article19.org/docimages/1639.doc

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