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Three journalists beaten by Guatemala City traffic police while covering eviction of street vendors

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - On 4 April 2008, three journalists covering the eviction of street vendors from around the Roosevelt Hospital were beaten by several members of Guatemala City's transit police (Policía Municipal de Tránsito, PMT), in an attempt to prevent them from taking photographs or video footage of the police assaulting a child. The journalists affected were Mario Morales, Óscar Benavente and Danilo de Jesús Ramírez Miranda.

Ileana Alamilla, coordinator of CERIGUA's Observatory of Journalists, condemned this assault on reporters carrying out their work, saying that the assault constitutes not only a violation of press freedom and freedom of information, but also an abuse of authority and the unfair use of force against the reporters.

Procurator for Human Rights (Procurador de los Derechos Humanos) Sergio Morales said that he would have charges filed against those responsible; he noted that a precedent must be established, especially since the assailants are supposed to be ensuring that public order is maintained.

Luis Enrique González, general director of the morning newspaper "Al Día", for which Ramírez Miranda, one of the journalists assaulted, works, said that the photographs and television footage are sufficient evidence for the capital city's authorities to take the lead on the issue. Ramírez was punched in the face. González said that the assault was an abuse of authority and a direct attack; he suggested that the police officer responsible be dismissed from service.

The Guatemalan Journalists' Association (Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, APG) condemned the assaults on Ramírez and the other journalists, saying that there is no doubt it was an abuse of authority, and urged the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists (Fiscalía de Delitos contra Periodistas) to investigate this incident and others of a similar nature that have recently occurred.

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