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Six TV stations closed due to political pressure

(CERIGUA/IFEX) - 8 May 2012 - Journalists in Mazatenango, Suchitépequez in southern Guatemala, have condemned the closing of six local TV stations, a decision that was made by the company Cable DX after local mayor Roberto Lemus, who is a member of the ruling party, put pressure on the company, saying he would not tolerate criticism of his administration.

Journalist Luis Emilio de León, who has worked for Canal TVS, told CERIGUA that the stations started to come under pressure when members of the ruling party - the Partido Patriota - tried to censor some of the reporting. The six channels were closed on 25 April 2012, leaving only one station on the air; that station, TVI, is managed by the nephew of the mayor's wife.

De León said that in February a journalist who had worked for the same channel was verbally and physically assaulted by a Partido Patriota deputy councilor. His programme and the channel were both shut down, but the broadcaster's signal was restored two weeks later on the condition that no political analysis programmes be aired.

Another journalist who was affected by the closures said that Cable DX has various business deals with the municipality and speculated that the closures may be an attempt to bolster the mayor's standing by preventing unfavourable critiques of his administration. "We have information that the municipality negotiated the installation of security cameras for Q1.5 millones (approx. US$193,000)," said the journalist, who chose to remain anonymous.

Carlos Galindo, president of the Suchitepéquez section of the Chamber of Commerce, a body which acted as a mediator between the cable company and the journalists, said that the decision to close the stations will impact on their audiences.

In statements made to a Prensa Libre newspaper correspondent, the mayor dismissed the journalists' accusations and said he has a good relationship with the media.

Twenty-four journalists have lost their jobs as a result of the closures.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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