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Danger on the rise: Three journalists killed in one week in Guatemala

Crime scene tape in the central park of Mazatenango, Guatemala, where Federico Salazar and Danilo López were killed on 10 March 2015
Crime scene tape in the central park of Mazatenango, Guatemala, where Federico Salazar and Danilo López were killed on 10 March 2015

AP Photo/Prensa Libre

Journalists Danilo López and Federico Salazar, correspondents for Prensa Libre and Radio Nuevo Mundo, in Mazatenago, Suchitepéquez (167 km southwest of the capital city) were killed on 10 March 2015 by two people on a motorcycle in the city's central park.

López and Salazar died at the scene, while another reporter who was with them, Marvin Túnchez, of the local Canal 30, was injured. López had received intimidating messages from Suchitepéquez authorities who were reacting to critical articles he had written. Later on the day of their deaths, the National Civil Police detained a suspect, who is said to have been driving the vehicle used in the attack.

On 13 March, just three days after López and Salazar were killed, a third journalist, Guido Armando Giovanni Villatoro, was murdered. Villatoro, who worked for Servicable, was attacked when he was leaving the station he worked at in Chicacao, also located in Suchitepéquez. Two people on a motorcycle, an adult and a minor, shot him.

Authorities believe that his murder is related to extortion that the cable company was subject to. Hours before the attack, someone, who is believed to have been planning to pick up a package of money from Servicable, was detained.

In recent years, of all departments in the country, Suchitepéquez has seen the most serious attacks on the press. On 19 August 2013, reporter Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez was killed; a few days earlier on 12 August of the same year journalist Fredy Rodas was seriously injured in an attack. In February 2014 journalist Nery Morales was also the target of a shooting, from which he escaped uninjured.

The Journalism Observatory of the Guatemala Centro de Reportes Informativos advises journalists, media outlets, and national and international free expression organisations, of the risks that are being faced by the press in Guatemala and which are expected to worsen in the lead up to elections in September. The organisation stands with the families of the killed journalists, and with their colleague Marvin Túnchez.

(Please note this is an abridged translation.)

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