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Journalist who was granted police protection threatened near his home

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF today voiced its alarm after investigative journalist and press freedom activist José Pelicó received a death threat from submachine gun-toting individuals near his home. Pelicó is supposed to be receiving police protection.

Not a single police officer from the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC) was on hand when the journalist, who works for the Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (CERIGUA), was intercepted by armed men after he drove his wife and son home from a shopping trip on the evening of 5 October 2008.

"How can a journalist, who on several occasions told the authorities that he was being targeted and should have been under police protection, be held up at gunpoint a few metres from his home?," the worldwide press freedom organisation asked.

"The Pelicó case has been known to the PNC for six months, as well as to the Public Ministry's special prosecutor's office (Fiscalía Especial del Ministerio Público) responsible for attacks on the press and the human rights prosecutor (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos). The investigation into his case appears to be stalled and Pelicó is living in a state of permanent insecurity. We call for a rapid review of the protection for his family and himself and we hope to see greater urgency in resolving this case," the organisation added.

Pelicó realised that he was being followed by a dark coloured vehicle with tinted windows when he left his home on 5 October to drive his wife and son to make a purchase. Armed men suddenly appeared around the vehicle as they returned home.

They pointed guns at him, saying that this time they were leaving but that he would be killed the next time. The journalist received the same kind of threat in April, after which he asked for and was granted PNC protection. However, on the evening of 5 October, no police officer was present in the area. A week earlier, armed men passed near the house shooting in the air and shouting, "We've found you, you are going to die." Pelicó described the failings in his protection to RSF. "The police said they would set up a security perimeter around my house, but in six months officers have only come to my house on two occasions and then stopped coming," he said.

"After the last incident, police came 20 minutes later and seemed to be unaware of the protection organised for me," Pelicó said. He added that he feels "very vulnerable" and has asked for a personal guard while he is moving around for his work. He believes there is a link between the threats and his investigative work in highly sensitive areas such as corruption, organised crime and drug trafficking. He also complained of a lack of information and results in the police investigation. He said the Public Ministry's special prosecutor's office has confined itself to inquiries with the telephone company in connection with the threats he received in April.

Updates the Pelicó case:

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