Freedom of Expression

Press Release R19/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Murder of Two Journalists in Guatemala, Urges State to Investigate Fully and Implement Protection Mechanism


February 5, 2018


Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalists Laurent Ángel Castillo Cifuentes and Luis Alfredo De León Miranda, which occurred in the municipality of Mazatenango, Department of Suchitepéquez. The Office of the Special Rapporteur expresses its grave concern over this aberrant crime and urges the Guatemalan authorities to act promptly and diligently to establish whether it was related to the practice of journalism, and to identify and punish the perpetrators.

According to the information available, their bodies were found on February 1 on a sugar-cane plantation in the community of Bolivia, with their feet and hands bound, and gunshot wounds to the head. Castillo Cifuentes was a correspondent for Nuestro Diario in Coatepeque, and De León Miranda was a publicist who worked at a local radio station. Both journalists were working together for the publication of a report on the Mazateco Carnival.

Reports indicate that Castillo Cifuentes had recently received phone calls demanding extortion payments.  

The Office of the Special Rapporteur observes that, despite the recommendations made to the State of Guatemala in the follow-up to the 2017 in loco visit of the Inter-American Commission and the State’s announcement of the creation of a national Program for the Protection of Journalists and Media Workers, there has been no specific progress on the issue to date. On repeated occasions, the IACHR, its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Unesco, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have recommended the creation of a program for the protection of journalists and media workers in Guatemala, given the situation of violence and the attacks that journalists and media workers have been facing there for more than a decade.  

This Office urges the State of Guatemala to move forward with the creation of that mechanism, ensuring that its content is consistent with international parameters and that it is developed in broad and effective consultation with civil society organizations, journalists, and media workers.

In addition, we recall that the obligation to investigate with due diligence and exhaust all logical lines of inquiry is especially relevant in cases of violence against journalists; an investigation that fails to consider aspects tied to the regional context, as well as the journalist’s professional activity, will be less likely to yield results. The Office of the Special Rapporteur insists upon the need to create special investigative bodies and protocols.

Principle 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: "The murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and/or threats to social communicators, as well as the material destruction of communications media violate the fundamental rights of individuals and strongly restrict freedom of expression. It is the duty of the state to prevent and investigate such occurrences, to punish their perpetrators and to ensure that victims receive due compensation."

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.