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TV journalist accused of attacking police in Guatemala

Dadiana Cabrera, a journalist with Guatevisión TV, is being prosecuted on an absurd charge of using violence against the police.

The case dates back to 27 February 2014, when police handcuffed Cabrera for no apparent reason during an identity check in Guatemala City. A friend accompanying her was beaten by eight policemen after he tried to summon a police inspection vehicle, while Cabrera was taken to a police station and charged with “attacking authority.”

A hearing was due to have been held on 6 May at which the prosecutor's office wanted to use a procedure that was supposed to speed up the case and avoid the usual drawn-out trial.

But Cabrera rejected this option, which would have meant her admitting guilt, resulting in a postponement until 24 June, when she will be required to demonstrate her innocence and the prosecution will not be required to prove her guilt.

“This procedure poses a very disturbing risk of a large fine or even detention for Cabrera, who is accused of carrying out the very attack of which she was the victim,” said Camille Soulier, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.

“The case is all the more worrying because the burden of proof has been reversed and she does not benefit from the presumption of innocence. The policemen involved in this case should be thoroughly investigated without delay, in order to shed light on this apparent abuse of authority.”

The attack on Cabrera is symptomatic of the violence that journalists face in Guatemala. The creation of a proper mechanism for protecting journalists is one of the main recommendations of the April 2014 report on Guatemala by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The authorities have repeatedly pledged to adopt effective security measures for journalists but how can their promises be taken seriously when their hostility towards journalists keeps on growing?

El Periódico editor José Ruben Zamora is still facing charges on 13 counts as a result of complaints brought by President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice-President Roxana Baldetti, which – contrary to their declared intention – they have not withdrawn.

Guatemala is ranked 125th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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