Columns / Editorial

On the Expulsion of Daniel Lizárraga

Thursday, July 8, 2021
El Faro

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The Bukele regime has expelled from the country renowned Latin American journalist Daniel Lizárraga, a member of this newsroom’s editorial team, in a serious escalation of attacks against El Faro and Salvadoran journalism.

The resolution immigration officials issued to Lizárraga specifies that he was denied his work permit and residence due to his inability to prove he is an editor or journalist. The assertion is just as absurd and crass as those made by the Treasury Ministry in the course of ongoing audits of this newsroom.

Lizárraga, a journalist known around the continent, is an instructor at the New Journalism Foundation (FNPI) and Mexico’s Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), as well as an award-winning editor of regional investigations and coordinator of an investigation in Mexico that uncovered emblematic corruption cases during the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The true reason for his expulsion isn’t that he cannot prove he’s a journalist, but rather that he’s a journalist specialized in investigating corruption. That’s what truly bothers the Bukele regime, which is just as plagued with corruption scandals as it is committed to protecting its own corrupt.

Corruption in this government hasn’t only been reported by journalistic investigations. It’s also been confirmed in the reports of the now-defunct International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES), as well as in the conclusions of the U.S. Congressional commission which prepared the so-called ‘Engel List.’ The response of the president, who has long promised to combat corruption, was to shield accused officials and persecute the press.

Lizárraga’s expulsion is serious but unsurprising. Journalism capable of revealing corruption is a formidable obstacle to the plans of the corrupt.

That’s why this administration has spent months in a campaign of harassment, attacks, censorship, and threats against El Faro and against journalism outside its control. In their conception of power, there’s no room for private organizations, universities, critical journalists, or the institutions tasked with monitoring government, investigating wrongdoing, or ensuring access to public information. Not even the constitution or the nation’s laws have earned the respect of those currently in power.

Various outlets, including this newsroom, have spent more than a year denouncing the corruption of this government (as we did with its predecessors), as well as abuses of power, threats, surveillance, and stalking by the regime’s operatives.

Resolution 12-2021 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which granted protective measures on behalf of 34 members of the El Faro newsroom, gives a precise recounting of these behaviors through January of this year, including President Bukele’s baseless money laundering accusations against El Faro which he made in a national broadcast. It also details threats and smear campaigns, as well as the surveillance and obstruction of our work, orchestrated by Casa Presidencial and published on state-run platforms and by officials in the Bukele administration.

But all of the regime’s efforts to silence the press, including Daniel Lizárraga’s expulsion, are futile. He’ll continue working with us, regardless of where he may be. His expulsion is a reflection of the nature of the regime that has been installed in El Salvador, not an impediment to the talents of Lizárraga and all of our collaborators in the service of El Faro and our readers.

An attack against critical journalism refusing to bow to government propaganda is an attack against our whole society, as it undermines the public’s right to information. In previous administrations, journalistic investigations revealed the improper use of public funds and systemic corruption. Among other outcomes, these investigations led to the prosecution of corruption cases at the highest levels of government, as well as the discrediting of the two main political parties covering up those acts. Those investigations paved the way for Bukele and his party.

Professional journalists are obligated to continue scrutinizing the decisions of this and every government, because these decisions affect the public and the scrutiny of them is in the public interest. And we will continue doing so.

We condemn this latest attack against independent journalism and reiterate our commitment to continue practicing journalism held to the highest editorial standards, rather than the standards of antidemocratic rulers who resort to threats and harassment in response to inquiries into their use of power.

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