GHRC Condemns the Assassination of Two Journalists in Mazatenango, Guatemala

The Guatemala Human Rights Commission condemns the March 10, 2015 assassination of journalists Danilo Lopez and Federico Salazar. This attack also left journalist Marvin Túnchez severely injured. GHRC calls on the Guatemalan government to thoroughly investigate this attack and to bring those responsible to justice. We also call on the Guatemalan government to effectively implement a protection program for journalists.

Guatemala has a long history of being known as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. At least 342 journalists were killed during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict (1960-1996). The Committee to Protect Journalist stated today that “Guatemala has a troubling pattern of impunity in attacks against journalists. If authorities allow these crimes to remain unsolved, all local journalists will face even more danger.”

The killings were also denounced by the IACHR and the RFK Center, and below you can find the translated statement from human rights group UDEFEGUA:

We Repudiate the Assassinations of Journalist in Mazatenango

Today, March 10, 2015, in an attempt to assassinate three journalists, two were killed and one was seriously injured. The two journalists who were killed were Danilo Zapón López and Federico Salazar, and the injured journalist was Marvin Israel Túnchez. This vile attack is part of a much wider generalized violence against journalists, social commentators, and editors in the country, which has reduced the freedom of expression not only for journalists, but also the general society.

The Guatemalan government is directly responsible for these assassinations; its inaction has allowed previous attacks against journalists to remain unsolved. This impunity has opened the door for countless cases of spurious criminal charges to be made against journalist and, as a result, there has been an increase in the censure and silencing of journalists. The government has been negligent in the development of a Protection Program for Human Rights Defenders, which was originally proposed back in 2004 and then reached a consensus with two orders by the State in 2009. The process of creating a Protection Program for Journalists by the government’s Social Communication department has been has been shelved and then reopened in a process that has been full of delays.

On July 8, 2013 Danilo Zapón López had denounced a whole series of threats he had received from Mr. Jose Linares Rojas, the Mayor of San Lorenzo, Suchitepéquez. The public official’s response was to lodge a spurious charge against Danilo ten days later for coercion and blackmail. UDEFEGUA had, in numerous occasions, interviewed the reporter about his concerns around the threatening climate in general for journalists living in Suchitepequez and the personal risk he ran working as a journalist.

Journalist Carlos Humberto Orellana Chávez was assassinated on August 19, 2013, also in Mazatenango. There has been no information on the case to date. During its investigation, UDEFEGUA registered a series of threats that local journalists had suffered. On August 12, 2013 journalist Fredy Anibal Rodas Arriaga survived an assassination attempt against his life. We were able to verify that, in all of the investigations into attacks made on journalists and social commetators in the year 2014, all cases remain in impunity.

The Guatemalan Protection Unit for Human Rights Defenders (UDEFEGUA) extends it condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims, and to the journalists and social commentators in Suchitepéquez.

Throughout 2013 and 2014, we had been calling attention to the grave situation for journalists and social commentators, and how it was affecting the media at a community, regional and national level. These aggressions have not only been carried out by local powers or right wing factions, but also by the very same Executive Branch and members of political parties.

Election years are always the most dangerous for journalists and the acts that we mourn today are part of a whole process of political violence that precedes elections. Because of this, we urge:

1) An immediate investigation and clarification into the assassinations of Danilo López and Federico Salazar, and the attempt against Marvin Israel Túnchez.

2) A full open investigation into the assassination of Carlos Humberto Orellana Chávez y the attempt against Fredy Anibal Rodas Arriaga.

3) A clarification of all the attacks suffered by journalists and social commentators, and the immediate dismissal of all spurious and unfounded charges and accusations against journalists and social commentators.

4) A revision of the Protection Program for Journalists that includes the voices of those affected as well as the proper, effective responses from the State.

5) Guatemalan society and the international community to be in solidarity with journalists and social commentators in Guatemala.

Guatemala, March 10, 2015

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