Salvadoran newspaper relocates after threats from pro-Bitcoin Bukele

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A major Salvadoran news outlet that has previously published negative stories about the country’s pro-Bitcoin president Nayib Bukele says it’s shifted much of its operation to Costa Rica following a government-led campaign of harassment, surveillance, and defamation.

In a statement issued Thursday, El Faro (The Lighthouse) explained the move and detailed what it called “the culmination of a months-long process driven by the lack of conditions for our company to remain in El Salvador.”

According to the outlet, which operated from its base in El Salvador for more than 25 years: “Under the government of Nayib Bukele, campaigns originating in Casa Presidencial have sought to defame and discredit El Faro and its employees.

We have faced physical surveillance and threats, Pegasus spyware attacks, harassment of advertisers, and defamation from public officials and ruling-party legislators.”

Read more: El Salvador president Bukele down 15% on Bitcoin, despite buying the dip

The outlet also claims that Bukele used state television and radio to falsely accuse it of money laundering and that it is currently appealing “multiple Treasury Ministry audits and fabricated criminal accusations.”

El Faro says its newsroom will remain in El Salvador but as of April 1, its legal and administrative operations are based in San José. 

Bukele banned reporting on deals made with gang leaders

The outlet has, unsurprisingly, previously reported on Bukele’s various plans to transform El Salvador into a Bitcoin hub. However, also unsurprisingly, this coverage hasn’t always been favorable.

For example, recent articles have questioned the motives behind Bukele’s so-called Bitcoin Office and detailed how the Bitcoin project has cost the country nearly $60 million in taxpayer money.

But this isn’t the only coverage that has prompted Bukele to target the outlet. According to El Faro’s statement, in April last year, the Legislative Assembly approved a law threatening to imprison anybody responsible for publishing material replicating gang messages. This is apparently an effort to stop journalists from reporting on negotiations between Bukele and the country’s three main gangs.

During these talks, the government promised not to extradite gang leaders to the United States in exchange for their support in upcoming elections.

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