GUATEMALA Press freedom has been marred by the murder of two journalists and by a difficult working environment created by public officials. The directors and chiefs of public entities have instructed their employees not to place official advertising in media that do not adhere to the government line. One of these newspapers is Prensa Libre, with the largest circulation in the country. The television news program" Avances," which receives a government subsidy, is waging a systematic campaign against Prensa Libre in retribution for the newspaper's independent stance, particularly in exposing alleged corruption in the public administration. On September 23, government spokesman Ricardo de la Torre Jimeno sent a letter to Prensa Libre protesting what he called the "frivolity and bad intentions" of an editorial on corruption in the three branches of government. In another matter, the issue of reform of the Constitutional Law of Freedom of Thought is now under discussion in the so-called "modernization meetings" chaired personally by Vice-President Luis Flores Asturias. The proposed changes in the law are intended to expedite libel suits against the media and individual journalists. The following events have affected press freedom: April 3: Several unidentified men broke into Radio Centroamericana, damaged equipment and painted threatening slogans on the walls. April 4: The body of journalist Pedro Perez Rosales, a radio station employee, was identified. His body showed signs of a beating, as well as bullet wounds. The results of the investigation have not been made public. The journalist, originally from Nicaragua, had worked for many years in Guatemala. He mysteriously disappeared after participating in a public demonstration in February. After he was killed, the journalist was buried in a paupers' cemetery, his remains labeled only as "XX." His body was exhumed on April 4 and identified by one of his sons. April 9: Thirteen media organizations signed a declaration to protest the attitude of President Alvaro Arzu and other government officials toward the press. They called for an end to harassment of independent media. April 18: Public Ministry prosecutor Eva Marina Gonzalez, accompanied by a judge and memebers of her staff, burst into the premises of the newspaper Al Dia and the television news channel Noti 7. She confiscated photo negatives and film related to the March 5 lynching of Maria del Cannen Azucena Gonzalez Herrera and the attack on Elvira Caal Choc in the village of San Raymundo. She was later ordered by the court to return the seized material. April 26: President Arzu appeared before journalists for the first time in a long while, only to make ironic comments in reaction to news reports and editorials concerning the disappearance and apparent murder of guerrilla Juan Jose Cabrera Rodas, known as "Mincho." April 26: The Executive looked disfavorably upon a proposal by independent congressmen to declare April 28-May 4 "Freedom of Expression Week." April 30: The Congress, dominated by the government National Vanguard Party, rejected the proposal. May 20: Unions, mass organizations and several congressmen characterized the government news program" Avances," broadcast on all open television channels, as a government instrument to attack and disparage the opposition and independent media. May 20: The Guatemalan Journalists' Association (APG), the National Press Circle (CNP), and the Guatemalan Chamber of Journalism (CGP) turned down an invitation to participate in "modernization meetings" convened by the government. They consider these meetings a way to distract the public from the serious concerns of society. May 23: There were positive reactions to a court decision declaring former President Jorge Antonio Serrano Elias, now in exile in Panama, guilty of violating constitutional free speech guarantees. When Serrano was preSident, he staged a so-called "self-coup" on May 25, 1993. A civil court found in favor of the lawsuit filed against Serrano by Prensa Libre and ordered him to pay damages. It is the first time in the history of Guatemala that a court has made such a decision. June 4: Thirteen media organizations repudiated a headline concerning corruption of journalistic organizations in the newspaper La Republica, which is clearly pro-government. The newspaper has since gone bankrupt and ceased publication. June 5: Jorge Luis Marroquin M., editor of Sol Cham, was gunned down and killed in the small town of Jocotan, Chiquimula department. He was also deputy secretary general of the then-opposition Party of National Vanguard, now the ruling party. June 9: Journalist Oscar Madrigal, director of the news program OIR in Puerto Barrios, Izabal, was the object of a physical attack. July 23: San Juan de Dios General Hospital administrators ordered staff not to give statements to the press about a crisis in the hospital. July 30: Jorge Soto, the former guerrilla chief known as Pablo Monsanto, who led the Armed Rebel Forces (FAR), denied that he as an individual or his organization in general were responsible for the kidnapping and presumed murder of journalist Irma Flaquer in October 1980. August 1: At the inauguration of the Inter American Press Association Hemisphere Conference on Unpunished Crimes Against Journalists, President Alvaro Arzu said he would order an investigation of murders of journalists in Guatemala. August 4: Elser Omar Guilar, identified by the National Police as a car thief, was arrested and charged with participating in the murder of journalist Alberto Antoniotti Monge, correspondent for Televisa of Mexico. September 26: In Mazatenango, Emilio de Leon, general manager of the alternative television channel TVS, and three staff members, were shot at. All survived the attack. October 1: So-called "modernization meetings," convened, financed, and run by the government, began to take up the issue of reform of the Constitutional Law of Freedom of Thought. The proposed changes in the law are said to be intended to speed up libel suits against the media and journalists, but have been branded as merely a scheme to limit freedom of expression.