After a broadcast journalist who reported on corruption was killed in Guatemala, the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression warned of “a new period of violence against the press” in the Central American country and criticized the government’s failure to act.
“Today violence has turned toward the sectors of the press that hold critical positions toward those in power, because of their social function of investigating and informing, but this year's level of aggressions had not been seen in a decade, Frank La Rue wrote in an opinion piece published in the Guatemalan newspaper La Prensa last week.
LaRue warned of “unforeseeable negative consequences” if action is not taken to stop the increasing violence against journalists.
Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez was the fourth journalist killed in Guatemala this year. Chávez had been the director at “La Venadita” radio for 25 years and was a news anchor on Canal Óptimo 23 when he was kidnapped and shot to death on August 19 after reporting on government corruption in the city of Mazatenango, where he lived.
His death comes one week after the attempted murder of another journalist, Fredy Rodas, who was gunned down while traveling near Guatemala’s south coast and was recovering in a hospital in Guatemala City.
Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla denied these attacks were due to the victims’ work as journalists. La Rue condemned this response, saying: “It is regrettable that the interior minister allows himself to speculate that (the killings) were ordinary crimes, as if this were acceptable. But what's worse, it shows the lack of interest in having a serious investigation."
Carlos Lauría, a coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, also called for government action. “The authorities must thoroughly investigate the murder of Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez and the shooting of Fredy Rodas, determine the motives, and bring those responsible to justice," he said.
The Center of Informative Reports on Guatemala (Cerigua) has documented 11 acts of aggression against journalists in the country since January 1, including the four murders. Cerigua teamed up with UNESCO in May to propose a “Journalist Protection Plan", which the government has yet to implement.