Cases of murdered Guatemalan journalists transferred to special prosecutor on one-year anniversary

The Attorney General of the Public Prosecutor's Office of Guatemala decided to transfer the cases of two journalists murdered in 2015 to the Special Prosecutor Against Impunity (FECI for its initials in Spanish).

Danilo López, correspondent for Prensa Libre, and Federico Salazar, from Radio Nuevo Mundo, were killed on March 10, 2015 in Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez.

According to Prensa Libre, six suspects in the crime have been captured so far, including two agents of the National Civil Police. It appears that a congress member of the ruling party National Convergence Front (FCN for its acronym in Spanish) and other public officials were involved, the news portal said.

Ileana Alamilla Bustamante, president of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (APG) and director of the Center for Informative Reports about Guatemala (Cerigua), said to Prensa Libre that the big challenge is finding the masterminds behind the crime, and maybe that’s why they transferred the case to the Attorney General.

In that sense, one of the main objectives of the FECI is to support the Public Prosecutor and the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) in the investigation of high-impact cases. That is, they transfer to the FECI allegations against criminal organizations that could remain in impunity and destabilize the current government.

Journalists Danilo López, 38, and Federico Salazar, 32, were shot a year ago in the central park of Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez, in front of a government office. Spanish newspaper El País reported that the attack occurred in broad daylight, while the journalists were covering an act for International Women’s Day that was organized by the city.

Before his death, López repeatedly received death threats and even physical attacks, Cerigua said. During his tenure as correspondent at Prensa Libre, he published several reports concerning irregularities in public spending and little oversight of the use of state resources by officials at all levels in the southern department of Suchitepéquez.

“Suchitepéquez is a department where there is a lot of corruption,” the correspondent had declared in remarks published by his former employer Prensa Libre in the year of his death.

In the attack on the journalists, a third reporter from local Canal 30, Marvin Túnchez, also received bullet wounds but survived. At the time, Túnchez told newspaper Publinews that the man who fired the shots aimed directly at López and that he and Salazar were collateral victims.

The Committee to Protect Journalists considered that López’s murder was due to his work as a journalist, and classified Guatemala as one of the most danger countries for journalists in 2015.

For years, journalists in the country and organizations defending press freedom have fought for the implementation of a special mechanism for the protection of journalists.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.