57th General Assembly Washington, DC October 12 – 16, 2001 GUATEMALA The government-supported attacks through the VHF television monopoly have ended, but relations between the press and government remain tense. But worse, a radio journalist was murdered for his bold exposés of corruption in a northern province. Jorge Mynor Alegría Armendáriz was shot to death on September 6 in the town of Puerto Barrios, 180 miles north of the capital, a few days after reporting forcefully on corruption in the local government and at the government-owned port authority, Santo Tomás de Castilla. Human Rights Prosecutor Julio Arango conducted a special investigation into the crime and issued a ruling, in which he concluded that the murder had been politically motivated to silence the journalist. The prosecutor and the independent press reported that Alegría had received a number of threats intended to silence his radio program, “Linea Directa.” Many friends and family members pointed directly to the mayor of Puerto Barrios and local government and port authority officials, some of whom had made intimidating phone calls to the journalist, as the ones responsible for the threats. Furthermore, while the television monopoly has stopped attacking newspapers, relations with the government remain tense, especially given the criticism of journalists by some government officials and continued resistance to providing information or making statements on matters of vital importance. The Ministry of Social Communication under the Office of the President - which is headed by a journalist, Byron Barrera - is also sponsoring a rights of reply campaign for officials in the administration of President Alfonso Portillo, in the belief that the press is manipulating news and fails to provide space for replies and clarifications from officials. The ministry is promoting the concept of “truth in reporting,” favors mandatory colegio membership for journalists, and is calling for self-regulation and codes of conduct at newspapers, requiring them to provide space for replies from government officials, even if they refused to speak with journalists seeking information on corruption. The Guatemalan press regularly reports on corruption, and the government’s response is that the press is conducting a smear campaign against it. Some members of Congress from the ruling FRG party have proposed amending the Law of Expression of Thought, which ranks equal with the constitution, but their initiatives have not yet gained wide acceptance in other parties. President Portillo has stated publicly that he respects press freedom. When an IAPA delegation visited Guatemala in August he made a commitment to see that the attacks on television were stopped, and said he has plans to announce a bill between now and December that would end the television monopoly. President Portillo also pledged to press for investigation into crimes against journalists through the Attorney General’s Office. Nevertheless, no special order has been given to investigate the case of Jorge Mynor Alegría Armendáriz, or the government officials named by the human rights prosecutor.