Guatemala to Implement Journalist Protection Program

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Guatemala is to implement a new journalist protection program, reflecting concerns over the threat posed to Latin American journalists by organized crime and the lack of adequate security measures from the region’s governments.

The Journalist Protection Program, which is intended to prevent crimes against journalists, has now received the official backing of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, reported the Knight Center.

The program will incorporate elements of a United Nations journalist security plan as well as a United Nations Human Rights Council resolution pushing governments to adapt protection programs to local needs.

The government also announced the formalization of the Federation of Departmental Associations of Journalists, which will assist authorities in implementing the program.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to Center for Informative Reports on Guatemala (CERIGUA), the new program will look to follow the examples of protection programs in Colombia and Mexico, which is hardly likely to inspire confidence in threatened journalists. In the last week alone in Colombia, one prominent journalist was lucky to survive an assassination attempt, while eight more were threatened for their work reporting on the land restitution process. Mexico, meanwhile, has become so dangerous for journalists that some news outlets now refuse to report on organized crime.

The ability of the Guatemalan government to provide journalists with an adequate protection program was further undermined by the United States’ recent decision to open a journalist security training center for media workers in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which was spurred by the belief that these countries lack the institutional capacity to protect journalists.

However, with 36 attacks on journalists in Guatemala recorded in 2012, and two journalists murdered so far in 2013, any attempts to improve journalist safety in the country should be welcomed, despite concerns they will not be sufficient.

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