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IFEX MEMBERS CONDEMN MURDERS OF JOURNALISTS

IFEX members have expressed outrage at the murder of two journalists in Guatemala and Honduras this week, countries "plagued by an overall lack of safety", said the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

Rolando Santiz, a reporter with the privately-owned TV station Canal 13, was shot and killed and his cameraman, Antonio de León, was seriously wounded in an assault carried out by two men on a motorcycle in Guatemala City on 1 April, report the Centre for Informative Reports on Guatemala (CERIGUA) and other IFEX members.

According to IAPA, they were driving back to work in a Canal 13 vehicle after covering a bus driver's murder for their news programme. That night, as the news was being broadcast on Canal 13, there were a number of anonymous telephone calls in which death threats were made to the announcers, warning them not to continue reporting the incident.

Santiz's murder prompted many demonstrations of solidarity by fellow journalists, politicians, union members, firefighters and citizens, says CERIGUA.

According to Ileana Alamilla, coordinator of CERIGUA's Journalist's Observatory, journalists no longer believe in the promises of protection made by authorities or in security plans proposed by the government.

In a similar attack in Honduras, Rafael Munguía Ortiz, a correspondent of the radio network Radio Cadena Voces, was murdered on a public street in San Pedro Sula, on 31 March, report RSF and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), as well as the Committee for Free Expression (C-Libre), a coalition of journalists and civil society members working to defend free expression in Honduras.

A band of hired killers armed with handguns shot Munguía eight times, according to the police report. Among the theories under consideration is that it was a premeditated attack that could have been carried out in revenge for Munguía's recent report exposing organised crime's activities in the area.

Carlos Salgado, an announcer working for the same station, was murdered on 18 October 2007 as he was leaving the network's headquarters in Tegucigalpa. According to RSF and C-Libre, the station's manager, Dagoberto Rodríguez, left the country two weeks later, after the police told him a contract had been put out for his murder.

For years, IAPA has been holding conferences and seminars on personal safety, the press and youth gangs in Central American countries, pointing out the dangers members of the media face in carrying out their work in environments of violence and impunity while calling for guarantees for the protection of journalists.

A solution (must be) found to stop the incidents that have resulted in the loss of lives (and that) could also have the added effect of journalists resorting to self-censorship," said Robert Rivard of IAPA.

IAPA said the incidents brought to 349 the number of journalists it has recorded murdered in the Americas since 1987, three of them in Honduras and 22 in Guatemala.

Visit these links:
- Television reporter Rolando Santiz murdered, photographer Juan Antonio de León Villatoro wounded (CERIGUA): http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102092/
- TV reporter shot dead in Guatemala City (RSF): http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30751
- Journalist Rafael Munguía Ortiz murdered in San Pedro Sula (CPJ):
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102071/
- Radio station correspondent gunned down in Honduras (RSF):
http://www.rsf.org/print.php3?id_article=30740
- IAPA condemns murders of journalists in two Central American countries: http://tinyurl.com/cqaqzd
- International Federation of Journalists condemns spate of journalists' killings in Latin America:
http://tinyurl.com/deloyx
(8 April 2009)

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