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Journalists assaulted, face restrictions while covering second electoral round

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - A number of journalists were assaulted in separate incidents n connection with the second electoral round in the presidential election, held on 6 November 2011. Héctor Cordero, a correspondent for Guatevisión in the Quiché department, was together with his cameraman Diego Morales when he was punched by bodyguards for Member of Parliament Mario Rivera, of the ruling party.

The incident occurred near the headquarters of the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza (UNE) party. When Cordero and Morales approached the politician's vehicle, his bodyguards shouted at the journalists and threw stones at them. One of the guards approached Cordero and punched him, while other individuals, presumably party supporters, punched Morales and threw him to the ground. Another guard broke Morales's camera and struck Cordero in the face with a piece of it, leaving him almost unconscious. The journalist was taken to hospital where he will be held for 10 days.

National Police officers who were present at the scene failed to provide any assistance. Cordero has filed a complaint against the bodyguards with the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Cordero noted that one of the bodyguards is the brother of Quiché Governor Raúl Antonio Matías, who has been angry with the journalist after one of Cordero's reports was critical of the security plan used during the first electoral round in the Zacualpa and Chinique municipalities. In turn, the governor accused Cordero of having instigated the incident.

In a separate incident, supporters of the Partido Patriota (PP) tried to assault a journalist in the municipality of Tectitán, Huehuetenango, after he tried to photograph a brawl between two separate factions that were fighting over the mayorship.

In the Alta Verapaz department, politician Ronald Sierra threatened Humberto David Paredes, who works for the National Public Information System (Sistema Nacional de Información Pública), and accused him of supporting the opposition party, LIDER.

Reports of media interference also emerged from the Sacatepéquez region, after reporters were temporarily prevented from entering two voting centers in Antigua.

Finally, in Guatemala City, Salvadorian cameraman Edgar Yanes, of the Teledos news programme, was assaulted by President Álvaro Colom's security team, while the president went to vote.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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