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Journalists' work threatened by "parallel powers" linked to organised crime through corrupt individuals and ties to political groups, warns CERIGUA

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - The following is a CERIGUA press release:

Caught in the crossfire

World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on 3 May, is being celebrated this year in unpromising circumstances. The year 2006 was described as one of the worst ones for the profession of journalism. Acts of aggression against journalists occurred on a massive scale. Dozens of journalists and other information professionals were murdered, both in countries at war, such as Iraq, and countries that were not, such as Mexico.

UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura decided to dedicate this day to the issue of journalists' safety, given the escalation of violence observed. He said that working as a journalist has never been so dangerous.

In Guatemala, the situation of generalised violence has negative repercussions for journalists' work; their work is threatened by parallel powers linked to organized crime, through corruption and, sometimes, through ties to political groups.

These violent groups, armed with both guns and money, restrict, through different practices, human rights, while journalists and others lack effective mechanisms with which to protect themselves. The culture of intolerance, the lack of confidence in the legal system and the lack of respect for government institutions are additional factors. Men and women practicing journalism find themselves caught in the crossfire, coping with generalized lack of security, criminal violence, corrupt politicians and, on occasion, furious mobs who attack information professionals when they cover certain newsworthy events.

The violation of the rights to information and press freedom is an attack on the rights of not only journalists, but also those of other members of the society, given that journalists' work allows different social sectors to co-exist and democracy to be exercised. These freedoms are made real in practice, which is why all of us must exercise them and defend them.

We have already sounded the alarm on several occasions about the serious dangers jeopardising press freedom. If this situation continues, press freedom will be reduced to a laughable state.

There is a silent enemy that advances stealthily, strikes, is camouflaged, is covered up, restricting and infringing on others' rights, affecting journalists' work and undermining its worth.

The defence of the rights deriving from the right to freedom of expression is everyone's task. On this day, aside from honouring those journalists murdered for carrying out their work, we also pay homage to those who, bravely and ethically, are still carrying out this work in different places and under different conditions. We reaffirm our commitment to the truth, our solidarity and social commitment, which are basic principles of our worthy profession.

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