Salvadoran Media Agree To Censor Violence

November 17, 2006

SAN SALVADOR – More than a dozen Salvadoran media have agreed to jointly combat what has been perceived as press sensationalism and morbidity in the media, as evidenced by daily images of the bloody bodies of victims of crime.

Both print and broadcast media joined in committing themselves to forgo dissemination of pictures of murder victims, more than 10 of whom turn up dead every day in this Central American nation beset by gang violence and other crime.

The accord, signed by at least 14 companies, also provides for increased efforts by journalists, editors and producers to treat victims and their families with respect, refrain from magnifying the significance of crime, avoid representation of gang symbols and eschew comments that might be taken as justifying violence.

William Meléndez, information director for Canal 12 TV, said the pact “simply means a return to the proper path, one of professionalism that should have prevailed all along.”

“Not showing the bodies of victims of violence is an important step in that it means greater respect for people’s dignity,” he added.

Francisco Valencia, editor of the Co Latino newspaper, said, “We will no longer do journalism that psychologically damages children and young people and Salvadorans in general.”

The vice-president for news of TCS Television, Jorge Hernández, explained that the motivation for the accord is “a socialentrepreneurial sense of responsibility, one of conscience and identification with citizens who find themselves battered by crime and worried about it day after day.” Salvadoran President Tony Saca hailed the pact.

“The country needs this kind of logical agreement, which helps send a message of tranquility, avoiding bloody scenes, the showing of cadavers day in and day out,” he said.

With an average of 10 killings per day, El Salvador, a nation of 6.7 million, has one of Latin America’s highest murder rates.

According to the Forensic Medicine Institute, there were 3,812 murders in El Salvador in 2005, or a rate of 55.5 per 100,000 inhabitants. And that trend continues to climb.

The global average of death by murder, according to the World Health Organization, is about 10 per 100,000 people annually.

By way of comparison, New York City, whose population of some 7 million, roughly the same as that of El Salvador, has about 600 murders per year.

Salvadoran authorities said in July that 1,873 murders were reported during the first half of 2006, most of them committed with guns. The number of murders in the first six months of 2006 exceeded by 131 the figure for the same period last year.

 

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