This reporting period witnessed the killing of a journalist, which represents another grievous attack on press freedoms. In addition, a proposed constitutional amendment seeks to lift a partial tax exemption for media outlets, a move considered an attack on freedom of the press. The appeal on constitutional grounds lodged before the Supreme Court against Law No. 372, which establishes the Nicaraguan journalists' Colegio (Ley Creadora del Colegio de Periodistas de Nicaragua), remains unanswered. The journalists' associations, UPN and APN, reached an agreement to register their members and convene a congress of the Colegio , as required under Law 372. It convened on November 27, 2004, but was riven by differences as to whether voting rights were restricted to members of the two associations in compliance with the law or were open to all journalists present. Ultimately, all were allowed to vote, electing 71-year-old former journalism school dean, Mario Fulvio Espinosa, Colegio president and Justo Rufino Meneses the vice president. Violence against journalists continues. Less than a year after the murder of journalist Carlos José Guadamuz, Maria José Bravo, a 26-year-old newspaper reporter with La Prensa and Hoy in the town of Santo Tomás , Chontales department, was mortally wounded in the town of Juigalpa on November 9, 2004. The shooting took place in front of the Chontales department elections commission, while Bravo covered a protest against municipal election results. Eugenio Hernández González, former Liberal Party mayor of El Ayote, was the gunman. According to various witnesses, just before opening fire, he accused journalists and the media of causing the electoral defeat of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party in that election. Hernández, who was arrested immediately following the shooting, was carrying a .38 Astra pistol in a bag, which also contained a change of clothing. After asking for Maria José, he squatted down and with his left hand fired the pistol wrapped in his pants in an apparent attempt to muffle the sound. After firing, he dropped the bag claiming that the pistol had gone off when the bag hit the ground. The Office of the Attorney General, controlled by the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, filed manslaughter charges against Hernández, punishable by 6 to 14 years in prison, rather than murder charges carrying 15 to 30-year prison terms. According to the prosecution, murder charges additionally require that the killer act with treachery, for payment or the promise of payment (murder-for-hire), with malice aforethought, with depraved indifference or other aggravating circumstances. Nicaraguan press and human rights associations joined to peaceably demand justice. The protests, efforts by attorneys on behalf of the victim and overwhelming evidence presented by the police, led the Juigalpa criminal court to issue a January 28 guilty verdict against Hernández for murder and a 25-year prison sentence. Mayerlin García, a photographer for La Prensa , suffered head injuries after being struck by rocks during protests over municipal election irregularities, held days earlier in Managua . On November 30, 2004, Sandinista legislator Bayardo Arce, in a clearly partisan move, introduced a bill seeking to amend Article 68 of the constitution. Its partisan character is patently clear in the bill's preamble which states: ?Tax exemptions granted by the government in order to foster the right to accurate information, to which Nicaraguans have the right, as an incentive for all the media to maintain pluralistic news coverage, have been distorted to cover activities unrelated to news gathering by essentially for-profit companies, not for the good of society. The government, as the steward of taxpayer funds, can not continue to grant these exemptions, inasmuch as they reduce tax revenue and thus the budget available for social expenditures.? The amendment impacts existing exemptions for importing paper, machinery and equipment and spare parts for the print, radio and TV media, as well as municipal, regional and financial taxes. The latter means that newspapers would pay a sales tax of 15 percent on each paper, which would seriously affect circulation. Presently the media pay income tax, property taxes and an advertising revenue tax. This amendment must be approved in two legislative sessions. The measure passed in the first legislative session and no hurdles are anticipated for its approval in the second session. Media publishers view it as an attack on freedom of speech, and a reprisal for their critical coverage of deals between the Liberal Party led by Arnoldo Alemán and Sandinistas under the leadership of Daniel Ortega, which together hold sufficient votes to amend the constitution. Two parties allied with the Sandinista Front, the Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS) and the Christian Democratic Union (UDC), are on record against the amendments. In another matter, the Secretary General of the FSLN, Daniel Ortega, accused the president, the minister of government affairs and the daily newspaper La Prensa of participating in a criminal plot. He asserted that the president and his minister of government affairs in Managua ordered the police to fire on squatters who had invaded a private property in the city of Chinandega , 130 kilometers to the northwest of Managua . Three civilians were killed and dozens wounded in the shooting. Ortega also stated at the victims' funeral that the rationale for the orders by Managua in the plan to fire upon the squatters, had been a piece published in La Prensa reporting that the FSLN was encouraging land seizures. As a result of Ortega's accusation, the La Prensa reporter in Chinandega, Carol Munguía, received death threats. Seven journalists for various media outlets were summoned by the elections inspectorate after reporting on government activities involving the Nicaraguan president, alleged to have engaged in political campaigning on behalf of the political grouping, Alliance for the Republic (APRE). The journalists refused to testify. The legislative commission on Education and Media recommended that television media owners undertake to regulate themselves and modify scheduling of ?sensationalist news? in order to cut back on television-induced violence. Legislators described the meeting with the media publishers as a call to conscience. ?The solution lies with the owners and not a law,? stated commission president, Fidel Moreno. Finally, on February 23 the media office of the National Assembly reported that the Justice Commission would soon introduce a bill for a freedom of information law.