This Sunday, February 4, presidential and Legislative Assembly elections will be held in El Salvador, while local elections will take place on March 3. These events will take place in the midst of a regime of exception imposed throughout the country since March 2022, which has led to multiple abuses, arbitrariness and human rights violations, as has been denounced by various human rights organizations.
We are concerned about the fact that during the weeks leading up to the elections, a notable increase in the presence of uniformed forces in the streets and territories has been confirmed, which may have a chilling effect on the people. Moreover, as has been repeatedly documented, the militarization of the territory is related to a rise in the number of abuses and infringements on human rights, especially against women facing a heightened risk of sexual assaults.
In this context, different forms of aggression have been registered against journalists, such as the experienced by photojournalist Jéssica Orellana while she was documenting the delivery of food packages from the Presidential Food Assistance Program (PFAP), an action considered “electoral campaigning” with public funds.
Likewise, one of the constant features of the current government has been the rise in digital violence against journalists and women human rights defenders , often perpetrated from circles in or around the government with misogynous messages and hate speech. We are concerned about the intensification of this kind of violence during these days.
For all of the above, we of IM-Defensoras and the Salvadoran Network of Women Defenders call on the government of El Salvador to guarantee the development of this electoral process without any type of violence or intimidation whatsoever and with total respect for the right to political participation and the right to inform and defend the rights of the people in general and those of journalists, electoral observers, and women human rights defenders specifically.
We also call on the international community, human rights organizations and mechanisms to stay abreast of the situation.
Alongside the Salvadoran Network of Women Defenders, we will remain vigilant, documenting and denouncing any aggression whatsoever against our colleagues who are journalists, women human rights defenders, and sex-gender based dissidents exercising their right to vote, their right to inform, and their right to defend democratic institutionalism in El Salvador.