Guatemala City, July 28, 2023—El Salvador authorities must allow journalist Victor Barahona to work freely and without fear of rearrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
Authorities first arrested Barahona, who hosts a political affairs show on the local station Canal 29 in the northeastern city of Apopa, in June 2022 and held him for 11 months under the country’s state of emergency for allegedly associating with criminal gangs, according to news reports and the Salvadoran Journalist Association. He was released on parole in May 2023, and is barred from leaving the country.
On Wednesday, July 26, a criminal court unexpectedly summoned Barahona for a hearing about potential changes to his parole, and authorities detained him overnight, the journalist told CPJ in a phone interview. Following his release on Thursday, Barahona’s lawyer told members of the press that the outcome of a court hearing was “positive,” but said he could not disclose further details.
“Salvadoran authorities should never have arrested journalist Victor Barahona in the first place, and his recent detention along with vague potential changes in his parole will only serve to further intimidate him over his work,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s Latin America and the Caribbean program coordinator, in São Paulo. “Authorities must drop any investigation into Barahona, ensure that he can do his work in peace, and cease using the country’s state of emergency as an excuse to stifle the press.”
Barahona told CPJ that he has worked as a journalist for over 30 years, and hosts interviews about politics and social affairs.
The journalist association’s statement said the organization was providing legal support to Barahona and maintained his innocence. It said Barahona had not received access to the court filing detailing the specific allegations against him.
Barahona was not included in CPJ’s 2022 census of journalists imprisoned for their work because CPJ was not aware of his case at the time.
CPJ emailed the Salvadoran prosecutor’s office for comment but did not receive any reply.
El Salvador has been in a state of emergency since the end of March 2022 following an escalation in homicides attributed to gangs. According to news reports, the government has detained more than 65,000 people since then. In March, local human rights groups said that at least 5,082 people had their rights violated during the crackdown, mainly due to arbitrary detentions.