Tuesday, March 13, 2018
The Salvadorian human rights organisations Fundación Comunicándonos and Associacíon de Derechos Humanos, accompanied by the Dutch ambassador Peter-Derrek Hof, have officially reported the murder of four Dutch journalists.

The four, working together for the broadcaster IKON, died in 1982 when they were trapped in an ambush by the Salvadorian army. The possible culprits are named in the report. Human rights organisations are asking the public prosecutor of El Salvador to start a criminal investigation. 

Starting point of impunity

While reporting from an area occupied by the FMLN guerrilla movement, Koos Koster, Hans ter Laag, Jan Kuiper and Joop Willemsen were murdered by the Salvadorian army on 16 March 1982. In 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission confirmed that the Salvadorian army intentionally shot the four journalists. The murder is seen as the starting point of impunity in the violence against journalists throughout the region, which continues to this day. Since the death of the four IKON journalists, hundreds of journalists have been murdered in Central America. In less than 10% of cases, the perpetrators are prosecuted and tried.

Improved safety for journalists

Mira Chowdhury, Central America Programme Manager of Free Press Unlimited, says: "Because the amnesty law was repealed in El Salvador in 2016, the way is now finally clear for the prosecution of crimes committed during the civil war (1980-1992). Judicial action in the murder of the IKON journalists should trigger a movement that will also lead to the punishment of later crimes against journalists." Together with local partners such as Fundación Comunicándonos and Fundación Latitudes, Free Press Unlimited seeks not only in El Salvador, but also in Guatemala and Honduras, to improve the physical and digital safety of journalists.