Guatemala Most Dangerous Country for Journalists in Central America: Watchdog

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Guatemala was the most dangerous country in Central America for journalists in 2013, amid a climate of violence and intimidation experienced by journalists throughout Latin America.

The murder of four journalists and 55 registered cases of non-violent aggression and violation of free expression in 2013 saw Guatemala surpass Honduras — which held the title between 2009 and 2012 — as the most dangerous Central American nation to work in for journalists, according to the annual report of the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC).

According to the PEC, the actions of organized crime and drug trafficking groups has created an environment of “censorship and self-censorship,” which is exacerbated by the threats and heavy handed behavior of politicians.

SEE ALSO: Guatemala News and Profiles

Senior Americas Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Carlos Lauria told InSight Crime Guatemala had recently seen a cycle of increased intimidation and violence directed at journalists, with prominent newspaper elPeriodico the target for consistent harassment. Guatemalan President Otto Perez recently dropped a criminal complaint against elPeriodico Director Jose Ruben Zamora, after the newspaper published several critical stories accusing him of corruption. However, according to Lauria, the CPJ only registered one journalist’s murder there in 2013.

InSight Crime Analysis

As InSight Crime has reported in the past, organized crime and corruption pose a constant threat to journalism and freedom of speech in Latin America, with 29 journalists murdered and four disappearing in 2013, according to El Pais. While the Guatemalan government issued a commitment to protect journalists following the fourth killing of the year in August 2013, as Perez’s recent lawsuit suggests, harassment continues apace.

While Brazil and Mexico stand out in the region as the countries with the most journalists being killed — registering six and five respectively in 2013, according to the PEC — Guatemala’s much smaller population gives it per capita rate of journalist murders far higher than either of those countries. The PEC also registered three deaths among journalists in Colombia, and two in Paraguay.

The killing of high profile journalists — such as that of Anibal Barrow in Honduras in 2013 — hit international headlines, but it is often local journalists working for smaller publications who are most at risk from being threatened into silence or killed. 

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