Regional reporter in Guatemala gunned down, the fourth this year

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  • August 21, 2013

By Alejandro Martínez

Guatemalan reporter Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez was killed on Monday, Aug. 19, in the town of San Bernardino, located in the province of Suchitepéquez, reported Cerigua. Orellana Chávez is the fourth reporter killed in Guatemala this year.

The daily Prensa Libre informed that Orellana Chávez, 72,  left his house on Monday morning. His body was founded hours later with gunshots to the head and chest.

Soon after the crime a police official told Prensa Libre they had not come up with a motive for the killing but "possibly" had to do with the theft of his car; however, Orellana Chávez's car was found soon after with all of his belongings inside.

According to Cerigua, there were news reports that Orellana Chávez had been kidnapped before being killed.

Orellana Chávez was director of Radio Victoria for 25 years before it closed. He was now working for a program on Canal Óptimo 23, where he had denounced corrupt practices in the province of Suchitepéquez. Prensa Libre reported that a granddaughter of Orellana Chávez had also been victim of threats and extorsion attempts.

Orellana Chávez is the fourth reporter to be killed in Guatemala this year. On Aug. 6, reporter and radio host Luis Lima was killed in front of his news station in the province of Zacapa. On April 7, Luis Alberto Lemus, director and producer of a TV show, was killed in Jutiapa. In March, journalist Napoleón Jarquín Duarte also was killed by gunfire in Jutiapa.

Other incidents have also generated concern for the country's journalists. On Aug. 12, Freddy Rodas was victim of an attempt on his life, in which he received several gunshots. A suspect in that attack was arrested this weekend.

On Aug. 9 and 10, José Rubén Zamora, director at the daily El Periódico, denounced that government agents tried to raid his house.

Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla recently denied that this rash of attacks against media members had to do with their work and said they where due to personal motives, reported Cerigua.

Nonetheless, attacks have attracted the attention of international organizations such as UNESCO and the Inter-American Press Association. The press association in Guatemala has asked for a meeting with President Otto Pérez to talk about the recent attacks, reported Prensa Libre.

For María Martin, director of the Guatemalan journalism training organization Gracias Vida, the current wave of violence underlines the state of helplessness that regional journalists in Guatemala have found themselves in for years.

"The lack of protection of journalists working in rural and regional areas, that's always bene the case. These journalists are more isolated, marginalized, and have less protection and organization," Martin said in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

"On the other hand, I think there are two things happening", she added. "One, I think that organized crime and the drug cartels are gaining more power in many areas in Guatemala and that makes it more dangerous for rural and regional journalists."

Two, you have Guatemala between Honduras and Mexico, where the killing of journalists has become an open sport. I've always thought it was just a matter of time before the bad guys would take a lesson from both of these countries, where journalists are killed and no one is called into account."

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.