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Townspeople briefly hold journalist captive in Sacuy, beat two journalists in Patzicía

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - José Manuel Patzán, a reporter for the programme Patrullaje Informativo, on the Emisoras Unidas radio station, was held captive for a half-hour on 24 April 2008, by townspeople of Sacuy, in the municipality of San Juan Sacatepéquez, located 54 kilometres from the capital city. His captors held him as a bargaining chip, to demand the police hand over two individuals suspected of child abduction.

According to a report in the "Prensa Libre" newspaper, the townspeople claimed that two individuals - María Josefina Ramírez and Miguel Ángel Contreras - were child abductors, when they were seen nearby a group of children. The two were captured by locals and detained in a nearby school. The suspects claim they are merely vendors of skin cream.

For two hours, Carlos Caljú, a police official with the San Juan Sacatepéquez sub-station, urged the captors to hand over the suspects, warning them that they would be held responsible for any harm done to the two. Finally, the townspeople complied.

Nonetheless, the townspeople later repented and demanded that the police return the two suspects into their custody. It was at this point that they took the journalist hostage, to bargain for an exchange with the police. Eventually, they released the journalist on a rural road, in exchange for a promise by police that they would take the two suspects to court.

CERIGUA's Journalists' Observatory noted that this offence comes fast on the heels of another, on 23 April, when journalists of the television station Telecentro 13 and "Prensa Libre" were assaulted by locals in Patzicía, Chimaltenango, as they tried to cover the mob attack upon three suspected moto-taxi thieves.

Considering the security situation in the country, many local people, especially in rural areas, have decided to take the law into their own hands, since they do not have confidence in the authorities. Because of this, journalists are being put continually at risk. So far in 2008, there have been four incidents in which local townspeople, discontent with or distrusting of the authorities, assaulted or detained journalists.

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