Guatemalan journalists deny Swedish Embassy's accusations of defamation

The Embassy of Sweden in Guatemala accused two journalists of defamation for stating on television that the Swedish government finances terrorist groups in this Central American country, reported the Guatemalan Center of News Reports (CERIGUA in Spanish). One of the accused journalists, Sylvia Gereda, Gereda denied the accusation on her blog and said she has the documents to back up the statements made about Sweden.

The accusation involves the controversial journalist Sylvia Gereda and her colleage Pedro Trujillo, who broadcasted the report “Sweden financing Terrorists in Guatemala” on the news program Informe Especial of Canal Antigua on March 4, in which they said that Sweden gives funds to organizations dedicated to causing political instability, promoting terrorism, and weakening the rule of law.

In a statement, the Sweden Embassy said that it gave information to Canal Antigua about a Guatemalan organization that requested funds and was later denied by the government and told to contact Indigenous Funds instead, which is in charge of such funds, but the journalists never followed through with this.

“This is a sign of lack of professionalism, and ethics,” according to the March 6 statement, which also demanded Canal Antigua issue a correction.

In their response to the Embassy, Gereda and Trujillo wrote that "nothing was invented...We do NOT lie." CERIGUA also published a follow-up article in which Gereda defended her journalistic work.

The U.N.'s Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, said that the journalists' report was a case of “bad journalism,” but he also said that the journalists have the right to criticize public officials as long as they respect ethics and professionalism, reported Cerigua.

But in an editorial, the newspaper Prensa Libre criticized LaRue, saying he "should stop attacking independent journalists."

However, journalist Iduvina Hernández of the news site Plaza Publica criticized Gereda`s work, saying that the documents cited above did not contain information on funding a project nor did they contain a signature of anyone responsible.