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Radio journalist murdered in Guatemala had spoken out on local issues

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 28 June 2016.

Guatemalan authorities should conduct a thorough and credible investigation into the murder of the director of a radio station and bring all those responsible to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Unidentified assailants shot Álvaro Alfredo Aceituno López, director of the local station Radio Ilusión, at around 4 p.m. on Saturday, on the street where the station is located in the small, southeastern city of Coatepeque, according to his colleagues and press reports. One of the bullets hit Aceituno, 64, in the back of the head, according to press reports. The Guatemalan Red Cross rushed him to the hospital, where he died later on Saturday.

"The murder of Álvaro Alfredo Aceituno López is likely to further chill the climate for freedom of the press in Guatemala, where lawlessness and impunity already perpetuate a cycle of violence and intimidation," said Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas. "In addition to investigating and prosecuting his case, the government must step up its efforts to protect journalists and to ensure they can work safely without fear of reprisal."

Leonel Mérida, who worked with Aceituno at Radio Ilusión, said that he mostly presented the news on his own radio show, "Acontecer Coatepecano," but sometimes made guest appearances on other programs and expressed opinions about local issues such as bad road repair. Mérida said that Aceituno had not told his colleagues he had received any threats before his murder. Family members told the Guatemalan press freedom group CERIGUA they were also not aware of any threats against Aceituno.

Alex Coyoy, a journalist in Coatepeque who said he had known Aceituno for nine years, told CPJ that the radio reporter was critical of local authorities, hospitals, and companies, and that he would take calls to the radio station in which people would often criticize local officials and municipal programs. Aceituno had worked in radio for around 37 years, and was also a retired teacher, Coyoy told CPJ.

A spokesperson for the National Civil Police told reporters that investigators had been dispatched to Coatepeque to investigate the crime, and that there was no information about a possible motive.

At least six journalists have been killed in direct relation with their work in Guatemala since CPJ began keeping records in 1992, while another 16 have been killed for unclear motives. A 2014 CPJ special report found that most murders of journalists went unpunished.

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