Murder of a journalist

On September 20, a young Salvadoran journalist was gunned down outside his family's home in Soyapango. Salvador Sánchez was a radio journalist for alternative media including Radio Maya Vision, YSUCA, and Radio Cadena Mi Gente. Sánchez reported on a variety of topics on the radio, including the protests and arrests in Suchitoto, gang activity, and political demonstrations. The killers and their motives are unknown.

But as happens whenever a prominent person is killed in the violence of El Salvador, there was no lack of suggestions as to what the motive might have been. As usual, the coverage of the story by El Faro is comprehensive and wisely refuses to jump to conclusions. The police made initial statements indicating that the murder could be the work of gang members, but the statement was made before any investigation was conducted. Sánchez's mother suggested in the El Faro article, that the murder may have been the work of criminals who had committed a murder 6 months earlier in the neighborhood and who had been witnessed by her son. Widely reported were the mother's statements that her son had told her he had been threatened in recent days, but had not identified the source of the threats. Other persons, apparently trying to make the murder a political cause, referred to the Sánchez as the victim of "forces of repression" or "death squads."

Unfortunately, we may never have an answer, given the usual inefficiency of murder investigations in El Salvador.

Concern was expressed internationally, as in this press release from the Inter America Press Association:
Miami (21 September 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemns the killing of journalist Salvador Sánchez Roque in El Salvador and urges authorities to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation to identify those responsible.

Radio journalist Salvador Sánchez Roque, age 37, was killed on 20 September 2007, a few meters from his home in the city of Soyapango, to the east of the capital San Salvador, as he headed out in the morning to do some shopping. Unidentified individuals fired upon him repeatedly.

"We are worried by this act of violence, above all because it took place in a country where such attacks on journalists are infrequent. We mourn the loss of this life and we stand beside Sánchez's family and colleagues; we also urge authorities to pursue this case until the guilty are apprehended," said Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and editor of "Prensa Libre" newspaper.

The United Nations also expressed concern:
The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today condemned the murder of Salvadoran radio reporter Salvador Sánchez Roque who was shot dead on 20 September, calling the act an assault on the Central American nation’s freedom of expression.

“This killing is an attack on the people of El Salvador’s right to enjoy the basic human right of freedom of expression,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “I trust that the authorities will do all in their power to find and prosecute the culprits of this heinous crime, in the interest of justice and democracy.”

Reporters Without Borders stated:
Reporters Without Borders expressed its horror today at the murder of freelance radio journalist Salvador Sánchez, who was shot dead in the town of Soyapango, near the capital, San Salvador, by suspected gangsters on 20 September.

“We anxiously await the results of the police investigation, though so far no link has been made between the killing and his journalistic work. Gang lawlessness that targets the population also affects journalists. We present our condolences to his family and colleagues.”

Also heard from was the Committee to Protect Journalists:
“We are saddened by the death of our colleague Salvador Sánchez and send
our condolences to his family and friends,” said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. “We call on authorities to open an immediate investigation and bring those responsible for his death to justice.”

A video homage to Salvador Sanchez, which includes television footage of the journalist, has already appeared on on YouTube:


Anonymous said…
Yes, we don't know who killed Sanchez or why. However, there are very serious reasons to suspect political motivation.

Tim left out one important part of the El Faro article:

Sánchez cubría frecuentemente manifestaciones y protestas, y según algunos de sus compañeros ya había recibido amenazas a raíz de sus notas radiales sobre las protestas de Suchitoto y la captura de los manifestantes acusados de “actos de terrorismo”.

Another factor that makes me very suspicious is that Sanchez has a history of working with the alternative media--Mayavision, YSUCA. He also appears to be a founding member of a new alternative radio chain, Mi Gente. This chain, it appears, is also connected to Mauricio Funes--who, at the time of Sanchez's death, was considered to be the next FMLN presidential candidate. Now, Funes has in fact announced his candidacy. And let's remember Saca's call for "nationalist soldiers" for the 2009 elections!

Funes once told me that the reason why journalists aren't killed in El Salvador is becuase they know what to leave alone. It certainly does not sound like Sanchez followed this model.

Also, of course, the fact that the police announced that they had solved the case before even begining to investigate--it's the maras!--follows the government's basic pattern after death squad killings.