Freedom of Expression in el Salvador: The Struggle for Human Rights and Democracy

Overview

Both academics and diplomats frequently cite postwar El Salvador as an example of successful conflict resolution and democratization. Salvadoran human rights advocates, however, have had to continually and publicly express their support of key provisions in the 1992 peace accords. This freedom of expression contributed to the punishment of those responsible for the murder of opposition leader Francisco Velis and medical student Adriano Vilanova. Human rights advocates have been less successful in other areas, ...
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Overview

Both academics and diplomats frequently cite postwar El Salvador as an example of successful conflict resolution and democratization. Salvadoran human rights advocates, however, have had to continually and publicly express their support of key provisions in the 1992 peace accords. This freedom of expression contributed to the punishment of those responsible for the murder of opposition leader Francisco Velis and medical student Adriano Vilanova. Human rights advocates have been less successful in other areas, however, including their opposition to amnesty laws for wartime human rights violators and their work against vigilante death squads.

This study covers the 1992 peace accords, which include the removal of human rights abusers from the military, the creation of a truth commission and the demilitarization of public security. It also discusses the troubling indications that the government is once again reducing the space available for freedom of expression, including the undermining of the Office of the Human Rights Counsel, the hostile attitude of President Francisco Flores, evidence of internal espionage and a changing international context. Later chapters focus on police reform. The book concludes by presenting some suggestions for increasing freedom of expression in transitional societies such as El Salvador. There is much evidence that shows human rights are likely to be a better protected right when citizens and civil society institutions routinely exercise their right to freedom of expression.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786418251
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/14/2004
  • Pages: 282
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Michael Ladutke is a professor of political science.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface 1
1. Introduction 5
2. Powerful Obstacles to Expression in Salvadoran History 18
3. Impunity Continues to Constrain Freedom of Expression 49
4. The Dominant Media Continue to Hinder Freedom of Expression 68
5. Dealing with Wartime Human Rights Abuses 88
6. The Demilitarization and Remilitarization of Public Security 126
7. Death Squads Seek to Destabilize the Transition 153
8. The Unusually Successful Prosecution of Police Agents in the Vilanova Murder 182
9. Expression for and against the Vigilante Death Squad Sombra Negra 204
10. Conclusion 218
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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2004

    democracy elusive 12 years after peace accords

    This well researched, well argued book analyses the extent to which Salvadoreans have been able to exercise freedom of expression in the post-civil war period, and the institutional factors have helped and hindered this. Ladutke addresses these questions through an examation of several post-civil war efforts by Salvadoreans to investigate and achieve justice for human rights violations committed during and after the war, many of which have relied on mechanisms established by the 1992 Peace Accords. These include the efforts to disseminate and implement the recommendations by the AdHoc Commission and Truth Commission investigations, the demilitarization of public security, and a special commission to investigate vigilante death squad activities. The study is framed by a debate among analysts of democratic transitions regarding the most secure path out of authoritarianism. From the outset, Ladutke rejects the elitist perspective on this transition process. This perspective, which places primacy on political stability through elite pact-making, advocates accommodation and automatic amnesty for rights violators within the regime. Ladutke instead adopts the participatory perspective on democratization, which emphasizes the need for active citizen involvement in the political process, including the process of bringing rights violators to justice. Indispensable to this participation, he argues, is freedom of expression, and one of the pillars on which this freedom rests is an independent press. Something that impressed me about the book is the careful, convincing way in which it traces a two-way linkage between impunity for human rights violators and freedom of expression. Ladutke establishes that Salvadorean citizen¿s present ability to articulate criticism of elite action on a range of injustices, is effectively constrained by the fact that most of the assassinations, torture, and disappearances committed by high ranking military personnel and other elites during and since the civil war continue to go unpunished. But he also provides examples that show that when critical voices have managed to be heard in the press and elsewhere (despite well founded fear of repression), rights perpetrators have been brought to justice and worse violations have most likely been prevented. Another strength of the book I want to comment on is its analysis of the role of the press. As a researcher of Salvadorean social movements who never ceases to be amazed by the distorted coverage (or complete lack of coverage) that movements receive in the press, I found very illuminating Ladutke¿s examination of the factors underlying reporter self-censorship. This analysis is informed by interviews with over 20 Salvadorean journalists, ranging from beat reporters to the famous host of the daily political affairs program Entrevista Al Día, Mauricio Funes. In presenting journalists¿ own perceptions of the constraints on objective, critical reporting, Ladutke makes clear that many experience this as a dilemma. While this is anything but a cheerful account of what it¿s like to be a journalist in El Salvador, it is also refreshing for anyone who has ever wondered what planet most Salvadorean reporters and anchorpeople inhabit while watching or reading the news in that country. As well, Ladutke¿s qualitative discussions of the content of news coverage of key cases of human rights violations by state authorities, though brief, are excellent in illustrating the way in which the mainstream press in El Salvador blatantly sides with government and elites on issues of social justice, corruption, etc. In these cases, he looks not only at what kinds of sources are cited (and just as importantly, excluded) but gives examples of how they are cited ¿ the subtle uses of language in news articles to discredit opposition voices, and to bury knowledge about elite wrong-doing. Ladutke¿s Freedom of Expression in El Salvador is going to be useful to several types of audie

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