Prominent El Salvador journalists threatened
Since the publishing of a report on a new criminal cartel made of public officials and high-ranked entrepreneurs, newspaper El Faro witnessed a rise of violence against its journalists.
For many years, Journalists of El Faro, an online digital newspaper from El Salvador, in Central America, decided to fulfill its social responsibility and report multiple cases of public and private sectors' corruption linked to organized crime within the Central American region. This network of brave and extremely competent journalists has received international awards for their work within this domain.
Within the above framework, El Faro published a report in May 2011 titled “El Cartel de Texis” where it was revealed that an organized criminal network was active in the north eastern region of El Salvador.
This criminal network was reported to have among its members important entrepreneurs, national Congressmen, local administrators, law enforcement agents, transnational gang leaders and soccer teams executives. El Faro showed that the information was reliable and originated from internal files generated by intelligence and security agencies, including the national police, and from field investigations carried out by El Faro journalists.
In reaction, the President of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, publicly acknowledged the existence of the “El Texis” secret files and ordered an exhaustive investigation of the facts surrounding the “Cartel de Texis” case.
In November 2011, the Minister of Defense, General David Munguía Payés, known for past episodes of disregarding human rights, was appointed Minister of the Public Security and immediately promised to engage organized crime and reduce the high rate of homicides by 30% per year. El Faro immediately manifested it strong opposition to appointment of General David Munguía Payés on the grounds of his poor human rights record.
At the end of January 2012, General David Munguía Payés implemented deep changes to the entire security system. He appointed another high level representative of the army, General Francisco Salinas, as chief of the National Police, in an open collision with the stipulations of the Peace Agreements requiring that the police must be lead by a civilian. General Munguía Payés also appointed Coronel Simón Molina Montoya as vice-director of the Secret Service Bureau.
Last 14th of March, El Faro reported informal negotiations between the Security Cabinet of El Salvador and the leaders of transnational gangs (known as Maras). El Faro reported that the main aim of these negotiations was to reduce the homicides rate in exchange for benefits for the Maras. Sources from the Secret Service of El Salvador confirmed this information, and as a result of these revelations, the authorities started to search for the leaks.
During the present year, several journalists working for El Faro have been followed by suspicious individuals, and in several occasions suspicious individuals were witnessed taking pictures of the main headquarters of El Faro. Moreover, the transnational criminal gang internationally known as Maras 13 released a public written statement making aggressive comments about the Director of El Faro, Carlos Dada.
Given the above, RECUPAZ - Red por una cultura de Paz, and LIBERA - Associazioni, nomi e numeri contro le mafie, strongly recommends that the Government of El Salvador:
1. Immediately starts investigations and prosecutions against any criminal group, private individual or public official issuing verbal or written threats against El Faro;
2. Immediately starts providing a security perimeter and security measures to protect the life, livelihood, and property of all members of El Faro and their families;
3. Establishes a prestigious high level citizens´ blue ribbon commission with the sole purpose of monitoring preventive measures and all investigations, prosecutions and judicial rulings regarding organized crime sensitive case-files involving threats or actual attacks against journalists;
4. Supports the establishment of a field based civil society network that will provide key information about lack of social preventive mechanisms and lack of institutional effectiveness regarding the judicial performance against organized crime and transnational gangs making threats against journalists;
5. Calls for the establishment of a Central American Special Prosecutor with the sole purpose of investigating organized crime groups and state officials that issue threats against journalists or violate the human rights of members of the media.