Journalist Manuel Salvador Villagrán was shot to death on January 19 at kilometer 149.5 of the road leading to the municipality of San Jorge, Zacapa.
Villagrán was fired on as he rode his motorcycle and was hit multiple times. He died at the scene. He was in charge of public relations for the municipality of San Jorge and worked with several media outlets in Zacapa.
The Freedom of the Press Committee of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (APG) held the government responsible, especially the minister of the interior, whose responsibility it is to ensure citizen safety. The committee pointed out that president Jimmy Morales on July 18 of last year approved a proposal for the construction of a journalist protection program, presented by sixteen national organizations and press departments, and the president specifically ordered that it be implemented.
Nonetheless, in spite of the guild’s cooperation, the minister of the interior’s legal advisor, René Lam, significantly weakened the accord, contravening the presidential order and keeping the profession in a state of permanent risk.
Given these facts, the Association of Guatemalan Journalists denounces the government’s failure to comply with the commitment made in 2012 in Geneva to implement a Journalist Protection Program. The association is calling for national and international solidarity in urging the responsible authorities to comply with and support the political will demonstrated by Jimmy Morales to implement the program to protect journalists. The program, the association said, could lessen the risk journalists face, especially outside of the capital.
The APG also noted that a journalist in Suchitepéquez, whose name was not released for security reasons, suffered an attempt on his life, along with his son, also a journalist. The journalist continues to receive death threats, which have increased since the assassinations of Danilo López and Federico Salazar in 2015. The journalist and his son, while they survived the attack, continue to be intimidated by a group calling itself “Ángeles Justicieros” (Vigilante Angels). The APG is calling for the immediate intervention of the authorities, asking them to afford the security that has been offered before another journalist has to be grieved.