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Journalists threatened by mayor of Mazatenango after reporting on corruption

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - Two journalists from Mazatenango, Suchitepéquez, said they have been harassed and threatened after publishing a story about corruption that implicated the mayor of Mazatenango, Manuel Delgado, who is seeking re-election in September 2011.

Danilo López, a correspondent for the daily "Prensa Libre", said that the harassment began after he published a 13 July story detailing the complaints of members of the local motorcycle taxi association, who said that the mayor and his son were involved in selling taxi permits to illegal operators.

In the last week of July, López went to the municipality's offices to carry out an interview with the mayor about his re-nomination as the candidate for his party in the upcoming elections. The mayor reportedly said, "Get this SOB out of here . . . and send him to hell."

On 4 August, supporters of the mayor hurled insults at López. Later one of Delgado's bodyguards approached the journalist and, while showing him his firearm, said, "Don't think I need this piece of crap, but if it's necessary I'll use it."

Ángel Ruiz, a correspondent for the "Nuestro Diario" newspaper in Mazatenango, told CERIGUA that he has also been harassed by Delgado's supporters. Ruiz said that his colleagues told him that Delgado gave instructions to his bodyguards to beat him up if they saw him.

Ruiz said he is very concerned that the bodyguards will carry out the mayor's order and said the situation is becoming unbearable. The major has also accused the reporters of trying to extort money from him in return for refraining from publishing information that would cast his administration in an unfavourable light.

(Please note that this is an abridged translation.)

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The use of criminal law to silence people who write about public issues is a significant problem in many countries…

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