US voices concerns about violence in El Salvador, restrictions on journalists

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The State Department said on Sunday it was concerned about violence in El Salvador as well as recently passed legislation that criminalizes reporting on some gang activities.

Last Tuesday, the El Salvador legislature passed measures criminalizing the reproduction or dissemination of messages from gangs, with media figures facing 10 to 15 years in prison if they violate this law. Press advocates have decried the move as a form of censorship stopping journalists from reporting on the realities of gang violence.

The State Department concurred with this characterization, saying “the law lends itself to attempts to censor the media, prevent reporting on corruption and other matters of public interest, and silence critics of the Salvadoran government.”

“Journalists must have the freedom to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention,” the department added.

The Salvadorian law was passed following a rash of dozens of gang killings in March. About 6,000 suspected gang members have since been arrested in an unprecedented crackdown on gang activity.

“We continue to support El Salvador in its efforts to reduce the proliferation of gangs. Since 2008, we have invested $411 million to improve citizen security and help the Salvadoran government combat gang violence,” the State Department said.

“We urge El Salvador to address this threat while also protecting vital civil liberties, including freedom of the press, due process, and freedom of speech. Now more than ever it is essential to extradite gang leaders to face justice in the United States.”

Tags El Salvador gang violence ms-13 Nayib Bukele state department

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