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NGOs sue gag order on gang statements in El Salvador

NGOs in El Salvador asked the judiciary on Tuesday to declare unconstitutional a new measure that journalists warn could criminalise certain types of media reporting on gangs.

To combat “information that could generate anxiety and panic among the general population,” the penal code was amended on April 6th, authorising prison terms of up to 15 years.

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador is waging a war on gangs and other forms of violent crime.

“The reforms severely curtail rights, particularly for the media. Journalists who break the law may face legal repercussions for doing so “Cristosal’s Ruth Elenora Lopez, a human rights representative, spoke at a press conference.

The case was brought before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court by Cristosal and the Association of El Salvadoran Journalists (APES).

Restricting journalists’ and media’s ability to report on events is “an attack on freedom of information,” says APES president Cesar Castro.

The Constitutional Chamber is allied with Bukele’s government, so neither organisation has much faith that the lawsuit will proceed.

After exhausting El Salvador’s “system of justice,” Castro said, they will move their case to the international level.

At least 87 people were killed during a weekend of violence in El Salvador that was blamed on the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs, according to the government.

It has since been revealed that police and the army have rounded up thousands of suspected gang members without warrants.

More than 13,500 gang members have been apprehended in the last 24 days, according to President Obama, who enjoys wide public support.

As the NGOs filed their suit, El Salvador’s Congress approved a law Tuesday to speed up construction of new prisons, as incarcerated populations swell with gang-related arrests.

An unprecedented number of people have been taken into custody as a result of the massive crackdown on the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs.

Officials estimate that 70,000 people are members of these gangs, with 26,000 of them currently in prison.

Courtesy Bol News

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