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IFEX-ALC expresses deep concern over increase in violence against journalists in Guatemala

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at his swearing-in ceremony. Guatemala City, January 14, 2016
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales at his swearing-in ceremony. Guatemala City, January 14, 2016

AP Photo/Moises Castillo

President of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales
Casa Presidencial
6 avenida entre 5ª y 6ª calle de la zona 1
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Secretary of Communication, Alfredo Brito

IFEX-ALC, an alliance of 23 organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean that promote and defend freedom of expression in the region, expresses deep concern with the increase in violence against journalists in Guatemala. Since the new government of President Jimmy Morales began its mandate in January 2016, five journalists have been killed. Four of the victims were media presenters, and one was a television producer. The names of the victims and the dates of their murders follow:

  • Mario Roberto Salazar, Director Radio Estéreo Azúcar - Jutiapa, 17 March
  • Wiston Leonardo Cano Túnchez, Locutor Radio La Jefa - Escuintla, 8 April
  • Diego Salomón Esteban Gaspar, Locutor Radio Sembrador - Quiché, 30 April
  • Víctor Hugo Valdez Cardona, Conductor de Chiquimula Visión - Chiquimula, 7 June
  • Álvaro Alfredo Aceituno López, Director Estéreo Ilusión - Quetzaltenango, 25 June

We also condemn the fact that 25 journalists have been killed since 2000, five of them in the past six months. In only one of these cases has the perpetrator been brought to justice. In addition, in 2016 two journalists have survived armed attacks.

On the night of Sunday 17 April, William Omar Cabrera Monterroso, a reporter for Gardenias Cable and the Despertar Occidental de Coatepeque news radio station, was attacked in front of his residence in Guatemala City's Zone 4. Then, on 23 May, two unidentified men stabbed Juan Pablo Ramírez Kursell, a music host for the Emisora Pantera del Grupo Nuevo Mundo radio station in San Pedro Carchá, Alta Verapaz. The latter attack took place in the afternoon when Ramírez was leaving his home. Robbery was initially assumed to be the motive for the attack, but no items were taken from his property. Ramírez has been hospitalised since the day of the stabbing, with damage to his lungs preventing him from speaking.

On 1 July, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' (IACHR) rapporteur's office issued a press release expressing the organisation's concern over the assassinations of journalists and commentators in Guatemala. The press release includes a reference to Principle 9 of the IACHR's Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, which states that:

“The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."

As an Alliance, IFEX-ALC shares the IACHR's concerns and we call on the Guatemalan authorities to immediately investigate these crimes. In addition, we call for the approval and implementation of the proposal for a programme or mechanism to protect journalists that is being promoted by the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, APG), the Guatemalan Journalism Chamber (Cámara Guatemalteca de Periodismo), the Professional Broadcasters Chamber of Guatemala (Cámara de Locutores Profesionales de Guatemala, CLPG), and 14 other organisations, among them our colleagues at CERIGUA, which is a member of the IFEX-ALC alliance.

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