El Salvador: Online attacks and threats against Salvadorean investigative news site
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a surge in online attacks and threats against the staff of the Salvadorean website Revista Factum – one of Central America’s leading investigative news outlets – and calls on the country’s new president, Nayib Bukele, not to stigmatize journalists.
Although the Salvadorean state is required to protect all of Revista Factum’s journalists as a “precautionary measure” requested in 2017 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an offshoot of the Organization of America States, online intimidation and smear campaigns against the site have been growing ever since the start of the election campaign that brought Bukele to the presidency in June.
In his first public statements after being elected, broadcast live on Facebook, Bukele lambasted the media, going to far as to name a number of journalists, including Revista Factum editor Héctor Silva Ávalos, describing them as “political adversaries acting in a Manichean manner with the intention of destabilizing the government.”
Since them, the attacks, insults and threats against the site and its representatives have increased even more, especially on social networks.
Most of the messages aim to discredit Revista Factum’s reporting by means of false accusations of conspiring against the government and associating with gangs and criminal groups. Two of its journalists in particular, Fernando Romero and Bryan Avelar, have been subjected to serious online threats and Twitter hate campaigns orchestrated from anonymous accounts.
“We express our full support for Revista Factum and strongly condemn the disgraceful attacks and attempts to link it to criminal groups,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of RSF’s Latin America bureau. “El Salvador’s new government has a duty to guarantee the protection of journalists and should not, under any circumstances, stigmatize them.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked El Salvador to guarantee the safety of all of Revista Factum’s journalists in 2017 after the site revealed the existence and methods of death squads linked to the state, and after its journalists had been harassed and had received death threats.
Cyber harassment cases have become increasingly common in the country. In late June, journalist Karen Fernandez was violently attacked on Twitter after she participated in an interview on Canal 33. A fragment of what she said was shared on social networks and retweeted by president Bukele. Fernandez then faced a wave of misogynist insults and threatening messages.
El Salvador is ranked 81st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.