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Photojournalist/documentary filmmaker killed

Filmmaker Christian Poveda was shot to death after spending years documenting the lives of gangs
Filmmaker Christian Poveda was shot to death after spending years documenting the lives of gangs

(AFP)

A filmmaker who spent years documenting El Salvador's most violent gangs was shot dead last week, say the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Christian Poveda, a 54-year-old Frenchman of Spanish descent, was found near his car on 2 September in the town of Tonacatepeque, just north of the capital San Salvador. Tonacatepeque is controlled by one of El Salvador's most infamous gangs, Mara 18. Poveda was reportedly travelling from nearby La Campanera, a poor suburb controlled by Mara 18's main rival, says CPJ.

Poveda had documented violence in El Salvador as a filmmaker and photojournalist over the past 30 years, says CPJ. Last year, he worked on a documentary about Mara 18, and lived with gang members for more than a year during filming. Poveda had received death threats from hostile gang members, according to local press reports. His documentary on Mara 18 was scheduled for wide release on 30 September.

"This brutal murder sends a chilling message to journalists in El Salvador, where rampant gang-related violence is the most sensitive issue for the press," said CPJ. "Salvadoran authorities must ensure that this crime does not go unpunished."

The documentary, "La Vida Loca", has already been screened at international film festivals. It portrays brutal images of "gang members gunned down in the street, the corpses of teenagers, relatives weeping over coffins, young women with their faces covered with tattoos," says RSF. "La Vida Loca" has never been screened in El Salvador.

According to RSF, the film also takes a critical look at harsh methods used by the police against young gang members. Although it acknowledges the terror created by gangs, the film depicts gang members as victims, showing how young Salvadorans are forced into crime by social and economic conditions.

"We must try to understand why a child of 12 or 13 joins a gang and gives his life for it," Poveda said in an interview for the Salvadoran online daily "El Faro", reported RSF.

A CPJ analysis published earlier this year found that journalists covering gang violence in El Salvador and other parts of Latin America had become targets themselves. Salvadoran journalists told CPJ that security concerns prevent in-depth reporting on the causes of gang violence.

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