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Three journalists receive death threats after photographing criminals' arrest

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - Journalists Juan Carlos Aquino, Cristian Gómez and Byron Hernández received death threats from individuals believed to be linked to organised crime in Zacapa department, 156 kilometres from Guatemala City.

According to Aquino, a correspondent for "Nuestro Diario", a national tabloid covering serious crimes and police investigations, the threats were received one day after the journalists photographed National Police officers arresting two alleged extortionists who had killed a businessman.

Aquino said another reporter told him and Gómez, of the Rescate Zacapa news agency, about the threats. In the meantime, Hernández, the host of a news programme broadcast on Canal 12 television station, received threatening messages.

Both Aquino and Gómez informed the Human Rights Ombudsman (Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos, PDH) about the threats. However, they did not file a complaint with the Public Prosecutor's Office (Ministerio Público, MP) because they were told that one of the office's employees was linked to the extortionists. Hernández did not inform the authorities for fear of reprisals.

Aquino said he also informed Interior Minister Raúl Velásquez during one of the minister's recent visits to Zacapa. He was told that representatives of the authorities would travel to the department from Guatemala City to investigate the incident, but two weeks later he has still not received any response.

The journalist said that as a security measure he has restricted his reporting to less controversial subject matters.

Zacapa is one of the departments most plagued by drug trafficking and organised crime in the country. One of the more memorable incidents in the area was the so called "narcomatanza" ("drugmassacre"), of 25 March 2008, which resulted in 11 deaths.

Aquino said that a number of journalists refuse to cover subjects related to drug trafficking, knowing full well that they would face great risks were they to do so.


RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Send appeals to authorities calling on them to:

- ensure that the journalists do not face any reprisals
- launch a thorough investigation so that those responsable for the threats are identified and sanctioned in accordance with the law and international agreements.


APPEALS TO:

Ruth del Valle
Comisionada Presidencial de los Derechos Humanos
(Presidential Human Rights Commissioner)
2a Avenida 10-50, zona 9
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2334 0119

Sergio Morales Alvarado
Procurador de los Derechos Humanos
(Human Rights Ombudsman)
12 Avenida 12-72, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2424 1717
Correo electrónico: [email protected]

Fiscalía Especial de Delitos contra Periodistas y Sindicalistas
Ministerio Público
(Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists and Labour Union Members)
7a Avenida 11-20 zona 1, segundo nivel
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2220 6873

Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas Sobre Derechos Humanos para Guatemala
(Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala)
13 calle 3-40 zona 10, Edifico Atlantils, oficina 803
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2382 3410
Correo electrónico: [email protected]

Raúl Velásquez
Ministro de Gobernación
(Interior Minister)
6a Avenida 4-64, zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2362 0237 / 2339 4474
Correo electrónico: [email protected]

Baltazar Gómez
Director de la Policía Nacional Civil
(Director, National Police)
Dirección General de la Policía Nacional Civil
6a Avenida 13-71 zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2238 1474

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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