El Salvador | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

El Salvador

El Salvador

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

41

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

16

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

14

Salvadoran journalists are generally able to freely report the news, including reports critical of the government and opposition parties. At the same time, press freedom is hindered by a lack of public transparency, reflected in the absence of freedom of information legislation. Judges have the right to restrict media access to legal proceedings involving what they claim is the public interest or national security. In October, the government reformed the code of criminal procedure to exempt journalists from having to reveal their sources even if ordered to testify during court cases. Criminal defamation suits remain a problem for Salvadoran journalists. In April, lawyers for the Canadian firm CINTEX, which had been granted significant government contracts, withdrew the complaint they had filed against Enrique Altamirano, director and owner of the daily newspaper El Diario de Hoy, and two of the paper's editors, Laffite Fernandez and Alvaro Cruz, following reports alleging that CINTEX executives were involved in criminal wrongdoing. In October, political activist Rafael Menjivar was sentenced to three years in prison for slander in television and radio spots in the run-up to the March 21 presidential election, in which he described opposition presidential candidate Schafik Handal's alleged role in murders and kidnappings during El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war. The sentence was later commuted to public retractions by Menjivar of his statements, house arrest, and probation. The five daily newspapers have a circulation of approximately 250,000, but most of the country depends on television and radio networks for the news. Limited resources prevent many media outlets from producing to their full capacity. Self-censorship is exercised to avoid offending media owners and directors.