Freedom of Expression

Press Release 83/03


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS, Eduardo Bertoni, expresses his serious concern about the increase in threats and acts of harassment against journalists, which produce an environment that is hostile to the exercise of freedom of expression in Guatemala. 

According to the information received, Tuesday, June 24, at 8:30, armed men entered the home of journalist José Rubén Zamora, president of the newspaper El Periódico. The unidentified armed individuals intimidated Zamora and his wife and assaulted their three children (13, 18, and 26 years of age) over a period of two hours. Days later, Zamora was followed as he was driving to the office of El Periódico. To these incidents have been added other aggressions against journalists, such as those suffered by Carmen Judith Morán Cruz, correspondent of the Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (Cerigua) in Baja Verapaz, and Luis Eduardo De León, journalist with the investigation unit of El Periódico. On June 29, Carmen Judith Morán Cruz received two telephone calls in which a man threatened her with death and demanded that she either resign from the Cerigua agency or her children would suffer the consequences. On July 3, the same individual repeated these threats. In another case, on July 3, several unidentified men forced entry into the home of journalist Luis Eduardo De León. The men removed a computer, diskettes and books. De León explained that the disks contained information relating to his journalistic work. These attacks against Guatemalan journalists are not isolated incidents, but rather are only unfortunate examples of the current situation of journalists in Guatemala. 

During a visit to Guatemala in March of this year, the Inter-American Commission and the Special Rapporteur had the opportunity to gather information about the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in that country. At the conclusion of the visit, they expressed their concern to the government of Guatemala about "an increase in threats to journalists, particularly those who cover investigations related to acts of corruption and human rights violations ." Once more, the Special Rapporteur reiterates that “freedom of expression means not only being able to express ideas and opinions, but also the ability to do so without suffering arbitrary consequences or acts of intimidation. Additionally, in election periods, freedom of expression and the press becomes fundamental to keep society informed.” 

Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
 July 7, 2003
Washington, D.C.