69th General Assembly

Denver, Colorado

October 18 – 22, 2013

Press Freedom has shown signs of deterioration since the last meeting, with the murder of two journalists and an attack on a third one, amid denunciations made by the newspaper elPeriódico of “harassment and commercial siege” by the government of President Otto Pérez Molina. The murder victims were Carlos Alberto Orellana and Luis de Jesús Lima, both journalists working in inland Guatemala, the first in San Bernadino, Suchitepéquez, and the second in Zacapa. Another one in the interior, Fredy Rodas Arreaga, suffered an attempt on his life, also in Suchitepéquez, although he managed to survive and the person allegedly responsible for the attack was arrested. With these two murders the number of journalists who have been killed in the past year rises to four, the worst figure since the dark days for journalism in 1978 to 1982, when dozens of members of the press were murdered for political reasons. To date the crimes remain unpunished. The president of elPeriódico, José Rubén Zamora, has publicly reported several actions against his paper, which he directly attributes to government authorities, as a reprisal for the denunciations of corruption that he has published. Zamora says the newspaper is the object of what he calls a commercial siege. He states that the government has withdrawn all official advertising as punishment for its editorial stance, while rewarded are media that are not critical of its governance. Zamora says that such action has gone farther, because both President Pérez and Vice President Roxana Baldetti are making efforts to have advertising withdrawn from privately-owned companies. In a public statement by the newspaper it is pointed out that in addition there has been recourse to judicial harassment, with lawsuits being taken out against the paper and against Zamora. The paper has also complained of online attacks against its Web site, mainly at weekends when it publishes a critical section called “El Peladero,” in which charges are made against public officials. The government for its part denies that there exists harassment of the newspaper, although it has acknowledged to IAPA officers that it has withdrawn advertising over the publication of what it describes as “lies” by the paper. President Pérez was seen to be interested in signing the Declaration of Chapultepec in April but he later suspended the signing, an act for which an official delegation of the IAPA, headed by its president, Jaime Mantilla, would travel to Guatemala.