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Journalist shot, three others beaten and stoned, while trying to cover attempted lynching

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - Journalist Rudy Toledo - a reporter for a cable television station based in Santa Cruz del Quiché - was shot and wounded in the leg on 25 April 2007, when he was trying to cover an attempted lynching in San Andrés Sajcabajá, along with two other journalists, who were beaten with sticks and stoned by a mob. A vehicle belonging to the television station Telediario was also burned by the same group, reports Telediario director Eduardo Mendoza.

According to Mendoza, Carlos Toledo, himself a reporter for Telediario in Santa Cruz del Quiché and is a relative of the wounded journalist, called Mendoza to inform him of the incident; Carlos Toledo had also been hit, as had Oscar Figueroa, who is a reporter with both the radio news programme "El Vocero de Utatlán" and radio station Emisoras Unidas, and Oscar Toledo, correspondent for the national daily "Nuestro Diario". They did not require hospitalization.

Reportedly, two sons of a congressman from the department of Quiché had captured a reputed common criminal, who they were keeping in a house. When the journalists approached the house, the found it surrounded by dozens of neighbours. The journalists were received with gunshots, stones and sticks.

According to Raúl Matías, a correspondent for Sonora radio station in Quiché, several days prior to the incident three people had been detained, including Juan José Gómez Urizar, a reputed delinquent from San Andrés de Sajcabajá, but three days later they were freed; Gómez Urizar was discovered stealing on the night of 25 April, which led to the town's inhabitants attempt to lynch him. The mob removed him from the house in question, beat him and burned him. Alen Reina Méndez and Manuel Reina Mendez, sons of Quiché congressman Lester Reinga, of the party National Unity for Hope (Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza), were also beaten.

Carlos Toledo is recovering in the Santa Elena national hospital in Santa Cruz del Quiché.

Ileana Alamilla, from the Press Freedom Committee of the Guatemalan Journalists' Association (Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, APG) and director of CERIGUA's Observatory for Journalists (Observatorio de los Periodistas), expressed her concern about these incidents, which CERIGUA considers an obstruction to the free exercise of the right to inform and be informed. She also expressed her solidarity with the reporters affected.

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