Photos of killing ignite debate on rights of minors in El Salvador

By Maira Magro

Should it be illegal for the press to publish names and photos of minors who are charged with a crime? The topic is under debate this week in El Salvador, after the paper La Prensa Gráfica was fined for publishing a sequence of photos showing a 17-year-old stabbing a student on a busy street in San Salvador.

On March 11, the paper published a series of images showing a boy attacking a student who had stolen his shirt. The victim died three hours later, and the minor was arrested and charged with homicide. After hours of debate, Prensa Gráfica’s editorial board decided to hide the face of the victim, but publish the photos along with the name of the minor that allegedly killed him.

A judge sent a letter seeking to stop the publication, citing a juvenile criminal law that establishes that, according to the letter, “a minor has the right to have their privacy respected and, consequently, not have any information publishes that directly or indirectly allows them to be identified” – including a minor charged with a crime.

Several days later, the judge fined the paper US$346, ruling that freedom of expression and the right to inform are subservient to the minor’s right to privacy.

The newspaper argued that the public good, in this case the right of citizens to be informed, should prevail in this clash of rights, and said it would appeal the ruling.

Several groups have defended the paper, and the Inter American Press Association released a statement saying that the public’s right to information should have prevailed.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.