Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of the press is protected through the constitution, and Salvadoran journalists are generally able to report freely on 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 for cases they deem to be in the public interest or of national security. Another provision in the criminal code that allows judges to close court proceedings if they determine that the publicity will prejudice a case is considered by some media groups to limit press freedom, according to the U.S. State Department. Despite reforms made in 2004 to the code of criminal procedure, defamation remains a criminal offense.
Although El Salvador is generally a safe place to practice journalism, 2006 saw an increase in the number of journalists who suffered physical attacks because of their work. More than 20 journalists were assaulted by politicians, protesters, or the national civil police while covering political unrest or riots on the streets. On February 27, cameraman Joel Martinez from the Telemundo newsmagazine Al Rojo Vivo was shot with a rubber bullet fired by the police, who were trying to break up a protest against a proposed free trade agreement with the United States. For three days in July, journalists were harassed and attacked with stones, sticks, and pepper spray during violent street protests against increases in electric and public transportation fees in San Salvador. Protesters wearing red shirts identifying them as supporters of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, were seen attacking journalists. Journalists were being targeted as alleged supporters of the “right-wing” Salvadoran government, according to protesters. On July 5, reporter Ernesto Landos and cameraman Carlos Duran of the San Salvador–based television station TeleDos suffered bruises and cuts when they were attacked with sticks and stones. The same day, journalist Ivan Perez of Radio YSUCA was threatened near the University of El Salvador, while Carlos Henriquez from the private daily La Prensa Grafica was attacked by a group of high school students participating in the street violence. During the same incident, protesters took away a memory card with pictures belonging to photojournalist Felipe Ayala from El Diario de Hoy. Employees of La Prensa Grafica were also targets of violent attacks on a number of other occasions throughout the year.
There are five daily newspapers that each have a circulation of approximately 250,000, but most of the country depends on privately-owned television and radio networks for the news. Limited resources prevent many media outlets from producing to their full capacity, and self-censorship is often exercised to avoid offending media owners, editors, and government officials. There were no reported government restrictions on the internet in 2006, and access has grown by more than 1,000 percent in the last five years to just under 10 percent of the population.