With elections only months away, there are signs of a plan by the government to once again undermine newspapers’ credibility. Senior officials have gone about seeking to discredit the media by making false accusations. The most significant event impacting press freedom in recent months has been action in the Supreme Court to thwart a bid by the FRG to impose licensing of journalists. But a final ruling on this has yet to be given. The Congress passed amendments to the Penal Code providing for punishment of any publication, newspaper, book or electronic medium for carrying “obscene content” – a move that contravenes Article 35 of the Constitution and opens the door for possible intervention in news media content. The greatest danger continues to be the constant attack on the credibility of the press. President Alfonso Portillo, Vice President Francisco Reyes and Congress President Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt use any opportunity in public speeches to declare that the press “is at the service of oligarchic groups” and to deny any information that is published. A number of ministers and former public officials accused of corruption have joined in the fray, among them Public Finance Minister Eduardo Weymann, former Communications Minister Luis Rabbé, former Comptroller General Marcio Tulio Abadio, and several congressmen and leaders of the governing party. The pro-government television channel gives big coverage to such attacks, unlike the independent radio stations. The main target of their attacks have been the newspapers Siglo Veintiuno, Prensa Libre and elPeriódico, as well as the3 editors of the latter two papers, who have been accused of being “destabilizers” by officials or pro-government media. A report by the Guatemalan Journalists Association said that the frequent press-government clashes and “the repeated charges leveled by those in government against certain media, the accusations of being destabilizers and opponents of the system and failing to report on the good things that senior officials, including the president, are doing are factors that intimidate, hamper the free flow of information and restrict freedom to express opinions.” In the midst of the dispute in which the Guatemalan press has become embroiled in the past two years, a new controversy has arisen regarding a family-business conflict which the government has used to allege that newspapers favor one of the parties in contention. The newspapers’ posture has been not to publish the versions of any of the parties, it being a clearly a family dispute that has been before the courts in Guatemala and abroad for four years now but which has been used by President Portillo to make accusations, some of them very serious ones, against certain journalists, among them José Rubén Zamora, president of elPeriódico. An emblematic case of the murder of journalists that the IAPA investigates and keeps a close eye on is that of Jorge Mario Alegría Armendáriz, shot to death on September 6, 2001, in the town of Puerto Barrios, 190 miles north of the capital. The Public Prosecutors Office named a special state attorney to handle the Alegría case. The alleged killer is in jail awaiting trial. Meanwhile, the Journalists Association has filed suit to block any attempt by Congress to use a bill for a Law on Community Media “to assign frequencies to entities supporting the political views” of the ruling party.