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Television reporter Rolando Santiz murdered, photographer Juan Antonio de León Villatoro wounded

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - Television reporter Rolando Santiz de León, of the Canal 13 news programme "Telecentro Trece", was killed and his cameraman, Juan Antonio de León Villatoro, was shot three times by unidentified individuals on 1 April 2009 as they were returning from covering a story.

Santiz and de León Villatoro were driving in a company-owned vehicle after covering the murder of a suburban bus driver when two people travelling on a motorcycle, who are presumed to have been hired killers, shot at the journalists. Santiz was shot four times, according to the local press.

Ileana Alamilla, the coordinator of CERIGUA's Journalist's Observatory, (Observatorio de los Periodistas), joined the outcry of journalists calling for this crime to be punished and pointing out that this murder marks the beginning of a tragic year for the Guatemalan press, even though the first few months passed without any reports of intimidation or danger for journalists.

Alamilla said that journalists no longer believe in the promises of upper level authorities or in security plans proposed by the government. Journalists are demanding concrete actions to stop the violence inherent in the environment in which they work every day.

The vice president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Gonzalo Marroquín, also lamented the murder and demanded that the authorities investigate the crime to end the impunity that so often prevails in these types of cases.

The murder of Santiz has motivated many demonstrations of solidarity. Hundreds of people, including politicians, union members, journalists, firefighters and citizens, congregated at the funeral home in Guatemala's capital city where the journalist's body was taken in order to offer their condolences to Santiz's wife, Lorena Ramírez. Ramírez is the daughter of Héctor Ramírez, known as "Reporter X", who died during violent protests on the days in 2003 that came to be called "Black Thursday" and the "Friday of Mourning".

Santiz worked for more than 20 years as a journalist and often covered graphic crime stories for "Telecentro Trece". His cameraman, de León Villatoro, is in stable condition in hospital and is under the protection of the national police.

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