{"code":"25412","sect":"Columns","sect_slug":"columns","hits":"1591","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202104\/columns\/25412","link_edit":"","name":"Government Fabricates a New Case against El Faro","slug":"government-fabricates-a-new-case-against-el-faro","info":"","mtag":"Editorial","noun":{"html":"El Faro Editorial Board","data":{"el-faro-editorial-board":{"sort":"","slug":"el-faro-editorial-board","path":"el_faro_editorial_board","name":"El Faro Editorial Board","edge":"0","init":"0"}}},"view":"1591","pict":{"cms-image-000035712-png":{"feat":"1","sort":"35712","name":"cms-image-000035712.png","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000035712.png","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000035712.png","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000035712-png","text":"","capt":""}},"pict_main__sort":35712,"date":{"live":"2021\/04\/14"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2021","data_post_dateLive_MM":"04","data_post_dateLive_DD":"14","text":"\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-4f3e1b16-7fff-8dbf-1784-505b7a040604\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E(\u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202104\/columnas\/25411\/El-Gobierno-fabrica-otro-caso-contra-El-Faro.htm\"\u003ELeer en espa\u00f1ol\u003C\/a\u003E)\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn his antidemocratic obsession to destroy voices that are critical of him or don\u2019t render him homage, President Nayib Bukele wields all available tools of the state as a machine of persecution. The government of El Salvador is doing whatever it can to quiet anyone who thinks differently or critically examines it.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESince June of 2019 \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202007\/el_salvador\/24697\/Bukele-Is-a-Threat-to-Journalism.htm\" target=\"_blank\"\u003EEl Faro has been a special target for these attacks.\u003C\/a\u003E The president has relied on intelligence agents, propaganda experts, ministers, other public officials, and various state institutions in an effort not only to delegitimize our work, but to impede it. Not only has he systematically \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.vice.com\/en\/article\/93548y\/el-salvadors-hipster-president-is-attacking-the-media\" target=\"_blank\"\u003Edenied us access to public information\u003C\/a\u003E and stigmatized and defamed our journalists, readers, and financial backers; he has pursued baseless and outlandish administrative cases against us in an attempt to conjure up criminal accusations or, at least, slanderous propaganda to undercut our reputation.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFor nearly the last two years, El Faro has publicly denounced these attacks and has pursued legal avenues, both domestic and international, to defend ourselves. Bodies such as the Constitutional Court, the \u003Ca href=\"http:\/\/www.oas.org\/en\/iachr\/jsForm\/?File=\/en\/iachr\/media_center\/preleases\/2021\/023.asp\" target=\"_blank\"\u003EInter-American Commission on Human Rights\u003C\/a\u003E, Amnesty International, \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.hrw.org\/news\/2021\/03\/17\/bukeles-legislative-victory-threatens-press-freedom-el-salvador\" target=\"_blank\"\u003EHuman Rights Watch\u003C\/a\u003E, Gabo Foundation and the \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/cpj.org\/2020\/09\/without-offering-proof-salvadoran-president-bukele-alleges-money-laundering-investigation-into-el-faro-news-website\/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003ECommittee to Protect Journalists\u003C\/a\u003E have condemned these attacks.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EToday, the government has taken it a step further.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAt the end of last week, we were notified of the preliminary conclusions of an audit that the Treasury Ministry has been conducting of El Faro\u2019s finances over the past year. The Treasury claims to have found, in our 2017 accounting records, an intentional tax evasion of $33,700 dollars. The accusation is completely baseless, as El Faro will prove on paper and, if necessary, in court. But we also reject the claim here, publicly, in order to maintain transparency with our readers and to stand tall before the executive\u2019s propaganda machine.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Bukele administration is accusing us, in short, of not paying taxes that we in fact paid \u2014 the proof of which the very Treasury Ministry has had in their hands for months \u2014 or of not paying taxes on income that never existed and the Treasury has fabricated. This absurdity has only one explanation: the mission of the Treasury\u2019s auditors investigating us since July 2020 is not to protect the interests of the state or pursue tax evaders, but to comply with attack orders issued from the president\u2019s office.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Treasury\u2019s arguments can only be explained by the auditors\u2019 deliberate decision to manipulate or omit information that they have in their possession. After ten months of investigation they are accusing us of evading paying taxes in 2017 on income received in 2017 but allocated and therefore registered in 2018, and which were correctly declared and paid in 2018, as the law requires. All of our tax records from 2018, for months now, have been at the auditors\u2019 disposal.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFor two decades, El Faro has declared its accounting operations and taxes on time and in the same fashion, with the endorsement not only of its accountant and yearly external auditors, but also of public administrators.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn the other hand, and on even weaker grounds, the Treasury is also accusing us of not having declared supposed income from our crowdfunding program, Excavaci\u00f3n Ciudadana (\u201cCitizen Support\u201d). In a premeditated act lacking even a single document to show that the income existed, Treasury has concluded that each and every contribution from our subscribers, even if they were only one time payments, should be calculated on a monthly basis, thus, multiplied in quantity. That is, if one of our readers contributed $10 to El Faro in January of 2017, the auditors have concluded \u2014 again, baselessly \u2014 that the individual contributed that quantity on a monthly basis and, therefore, would have generated an income of $120 for El Faro that year. The Treasury, which has in its possession all the documents detailing these transactions and contributions from our subscribers, is not claiming we didn\u2019t pay taxes on them \u2014 because we obviously did \u2014 but that we didn\u2019t pay taxes on money that doesn\u2019t exist.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAs absurd as this situation may seem, it is in fact extremely dangerous. But it\u2019s also no surprise. President Bukele\u2019s insistence on casting doubt on our tax paying on multiple national broadcasts and through the comments of other officials led us to believe auditing inconsistencies of this kind might be coming. Unfortunately, this government\u2019s attitude only forecasts similar conclusions for the other three audits that Treasury is still conducting of El Faro, through which auditors not only tried to illegally obtain the list of names of our subscribers and meeting minutes from the Executive Board, but also demanded to know the monetary value of the symbolic trinkets El Faro has received over the years as awards in international journalism.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt must be reiterated that the auditors are acting on top-down orders to mount a case confirming the president\u2019s a priori verdict that he announced as the audits of El Faro were just beginning. On September 24, in the middle of a national broadcast convened to discuss the pandemic, the president told the country that El Faro was \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/cpj.org\/2020\/09\/without-offering-proof-salvadoran-president-bukele-alleges-money-laundering-investigation-into-el-faro-news-website\/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003Eunder investigation for serious accusations of money laundering\u003C\/a\u003E. Those statements constituted a crime, or several, which the Attorney General\u2019s Office never investigated. The Treasury Minister and the ministry\u2019s auditors have since scrambled to find nonexistent substantiation of the president\u2019s lie. That was the inevitable result, given the inverted order of events: first, the executive dictated the desired findings, creating a narrative against El Faro and the rest of the independent press; the investigation followed.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEl Faro has followed the law. We have submitted to auditors all the accounting information that they have requested, including documentation down to the penny of all of our income, expenses, and tax payments from each past audit. We only refused, in accordance with the law, to submit to the Treasury information unrelated to taxes, such as the personal information of our subscribers and the Executive Board meeting minutes, information which clearly was beyond the scope of a tax audit. El Faro has documented and journalistically denounced how the current administration has systematically leveraged the Treasury Ministry as a weapon of selective persecution of those it considers its adversaries.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThat\u2019s why, in defense of freedom of expression amid this attempt at indirect censorship, we raised our concerns before the Supreme Court of Justice, of which the Constitutional Chamber found sufficient evidence to issue an injunction and protective measures on our behalf, impeding the Treasury from continuing to request information unrelated to taxes.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe have not evaded taxes, nor withheld tax-related information from authorities. Let us be clear: never.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThis \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.cjr.org\/analysis\/el-faro-nayib-bukele-press-freedom.php\" target=\"_blank\"\u003Egovernment\u2019s attacks against El Faro\u003C\/a\u003E include smear campaigns, stalking, illegal wiretaps, threats, and constant online harassment. In an administration with \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/www.elfaro.net\/en\/202009\/el_salvador\/24796\/Series-of-Corruption-Allegations-Stains-El-Salvador%E2%80%99s-Promise-%E2%80%94-What-Political-Impact-Will-It-Have.htm\" target=\"_blank\"\u003Ethe same symptoms of corruption as its predecessors\u003C\/a\u003E \u2014 except more opaque \u2014 good journalism is a nuisance because it can look into and denounce abuses of power, the weakening of democracy, and the scandalous acts of government corruption committed with the consent and protection of the president, who is allergic to accountability and loathe to allow not only journalism, but also government monitors such as judges and prosecutors, to access public information.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ENayib Bukele is seeking to silence us. Given that all his systems of surveillance, networks of defamation, of hiding information, of slander and threats, haven\u2019t been enough to silence us, he is now resorting to bringing cases against us.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFew things reflect the anti-democratic, authoritarian, abusive, and intolerant character of a government as clearly as ordering public officials and institutions of the state to destroy, in any way, people or institutions that don\u2019t profess unconditional support. In taking these actions, Bukele and his officials are corrupting the state. That is the reality we are facing today.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWe are not the first to suffer attacks from this administration. But, as opposed to others, who have opted to concede to pressure from Bukele without calling it out or denouncing it, we are going to defend ourselves and vindicate our work, which is journalism, and we will conduct it faithfully and vigorously no matter how long this government\u2019s onslaught against us lasts. And we will do so accompanied by our readers, our allies, and our supporters \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/latamjournalismreview.org\/articles\/international-community-stands-in-solidarity-with-el-faro-as-salvadoran-government-attacks-on-independent-press-escalate\/\" target=\"_blank\"\u003Ein El Salvador and abroad\u003C\/a\u003E, in defense of the most basic principles of democracy.\u003C\/p\u003E"}