Guatemala launches mechanism to prevent violence against journalists

By Larissa Manescu

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti announced last week the launch of a plan to ensure the protection of journalists in the country, according to Europa Press. The mechanism involves collaboration among various agencies including ministries, state institutions and independent press organizations.

The president signed a document expressing his willingness to establish the Program to Protect Journalists earlier in May, and the implementation process is now expected to occur over 60 days. According to presidential spokesman Francisco Cuevas, the organizations involved will sign an agreement, determine which of them will analyze attack reports and schedule periodic meetings to discuss their findings.

Following Mexico and Colombia, Guatemala is the third country in Latin American to implement such a plan.

Upon hearing the announcement, UNESCO released a statement expressing its "availability as an international and neutral organization, specialised in this subject, to facilitate dialogue with all stakeholders."

The president called for an "open doors" policy for journalists to be able to do their work without fear of repercussion under the new plan. The ultimate goal is to enforce justice through the judicial system by holding the perpetrators of attacks against journalists accountable.

In an opinion piece published in August, Frank La Rue, the UN's special rapporteur for freedom of expression, said that the nation is experiencing a new wave of violence this year.

Guatemala has documented 48 freedom of expression violations during the first nine months of 2013, a significant increase compared to the 19 reported in 2010. This number includes four killings and eight death threats, according to the 2013 impunity report recently released by IFEX.

Last week, Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre reported that journalist and director César Pérez Méndez received death threats through phone calls and text messages after his publication El Quetzalteco reported on corruption in the city of Quetzaltenango.

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.

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