By Brandon Cottrell
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Carlos Alberto Orellana Chavez, 62, was found Monday shot to death. The shooting came hours after Chavez, a broadcast journalist, was reported missing. With his passing, a total of four journalists have been murdered in Guatemala this year.
Chavez’s shooting comes one week after Freddy Rodas, a regional correspondent, was seriously wounded in a shooting. Guatemalan police do, however, have a suspect in custody regarding Rodas’ shooting. Additionally, last week gunmen shot at the home of Vernick Gudiel, an investigator for a Guatemala City daily newspaper. No injuries were reported in that shooting, however.
Carlos Lauria, coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, has called for the authorities to “thoroughly investigate the murder of Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez and the shooting of Fredy Rodas, determine the motives, and bring those responsible to justice.”
As authorities continue to investigate the murder, Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez rejected the notion that journalists as a group are under attack. Lopez believes that the shootings are based on personal motives, indicating that Chavez may have been killed during a carjacking.
Maria Martin, director of the Guatemalan journalism training organization Gracias Vida, rejects Lopez’s notion and offers two additional explanations. First, Martin states “organized crime and the drug cartels are gaining more power . . . and that makes it more dangerous for rural and regional journalists.” Additionally, she states, “you have Guatemala between Honduras and Mexico, where the killing of journalists has become an open sport . . . it was just a matter of time before the bad guys would take a lesson from both of these countries, where journalists are killed and no one is called into account.”
President Otto Pérez Molina, meanwhile, announced the creation of a task force that will investigate the murders of all four journalists that have been murdered this year. Molina said that, “we put together a special team to run the investigation so we can make sure this does not go unpunished.” He also announced a new program that is aimed at protecting journalists who work in Guatemala.
For further information, please see:
The Guardian – Guatemalan Journalist Shot to Death – 22 August 2013
Info Sur Hoy – Guatemala Task Force to Probe Journalist Deaths – 21 August 2013
Journalism in the Americas – Regional Reporter in Guatemala Gunned Down, the Fourth This Year – 21 August 2013
One India – Journalist Slain in Guatemala, one Suspect Held – 21 August 2013