Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 2011 - Guatemala

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 22 February 2012
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2011 - Guatemala, 22 February 2012, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Key Developments

  • As drug cartel influence expands, journalists face a growing threat.

  • Press freedom violations climb: Columnist forced to relocate, reporter fired upon.

Journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship as Mexican drug cartels expanded their presence in Guatemala. In May, criminals in four provinces hung banners in public places, threatening journalists with harm if gang activities were covered. A television journalist in southern Escuintla province was killed under unclear circumstances after receiving several threats. While the rise of criminal groups posed a growing risk, journalists also faced danger for coverage of official corruption and domestic security issues. In the southwestern city of Quetzaltenango, a television journalist and his family escaped injury when their van came under gunfire. The reporter had received death threats related to his coverage of police corruption. A columnist in the western city of Panajachel was forced to relocate after receiving a series of intimidating text messages concerning her coverage of a citizen security committee. The local press group CERIGUA documented an increase in press freedom violations in the months leading up to the November presidential elections, as well as a number of assaults and threats against journalists on Election Day. Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general running on the conservative Patriotic Party ticket, defeated businessman Manuel Baldizón in a runoff. Facing a murder rate among the highest in the world, Pérez pledged a tough approach on crime.

[Refworld note: The sections that follow represent a best effort to transcribe onto a single page information that appears in tabs on the CPJ's own pages, which also include a number of graphics not readily reproducible here. Refworld researchers are therefore strongly recommended to check against the original report: Attacks on the Press in 2011.]

Killed, motive unconfirmed: 1

Yensi Roberto Ordoñez Galdámez, a television reporter and teacher, was stabbed to death in May 2011. CPJ continues to investigate to determine if the motive was work-related.

Breakdown of fatalities in Guatemala over time:

5: Journalists killed, motive confirmed, since 1992.

13: Journalists killed, motive unconfirmed, since 1992. CPJ continues to investigate.

Forced to relocate: 1

Newspaper columnist Lucía Escobar fled Panajachel after intimidation and harassment in connection with a piece that suggested a citizen security committee might have been behind the disappearance of a local resident. Escobar alleged the committee, an independent group formed to help protect the community, had begun using extralegal measures to enforce its own code of conduct.

Other threats against journalists:

3: Shots fired at television journalist Oscar de León's minivan while he drove with his family. No one was injured. De León also received multiple death threats.

6: Intimidating text messages sent to Lucía Escobar over five days.

Press freedom violations: 15

The local press group CERIGUA documented 15 abuses against the press in the first six months of 2011.

Nineteen violations were documented in all of 2010.

Breakdown of 2011 violations:

9: Threats

2: Cases of obstruction

2: Attacks

1: Murder

1: Harassment

Violations by officials, politicians: 53%

CERIGUAfound that more than half of the 2011 violations were committed by government authorities or politicians. Criminal groups accounted for only one case because Guatemalan journalists were practicing self-censorship, CERIGUA said.

Attack by source:

5: Officials

2: Political party members

1: Organized crime

1: Security agent

3: Unknown

3: Others

Arrests for threats: 3

In May, three reputed members of the Zetas crime syndicate were arrested in the city of Quetzaltenango on charges of hanging banners with anti-press messages such as: "Tone it down, before the war is with you." Similar banners were found in Petén, Baja Verapaz, and Huehuetenango provinces. A week earlier, the press had covered the massacre of farm workers in Petén province. The Zetas organization, which originated in Mexico, has made considerable inroads in Guatemala in recent years.

A massacre and a warning:

27: People killed in widely covered massacre in May.

4: Provinces where public messages threatening the press were found.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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