Freedom of Expression

Press Release R95/18

Office of the Special Rapporteur condemns murder of journalist in Guatemala and urges to investigate the relation to his journalistic activity


May 4th, 2018


Washington, DC - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the murder of journalist José Daniel Rodríguez in Guatemala City, and urges the Guatemalan State to investigate the crime with due diligence, and clarify its possible relation to the journalistic activity.


According to available information, the journalist José Daniel Rodríguez would have disappeared on April 9. The following day, in zone 9 of Guatemala City, his body would have been located wrapped between sheets in the public highway, with signs of violence. The National Institute of Forensic Sciences reported that the cause of death was due to suffocation. On April 14, the Human Rights Ombudsman, Jordán Rodas Andrade, issued a statement in which, among other things, asked the authorities to carry out the corresponding investigations. As reported, the Prosecutor's Office for Crimes against Life of the Public Ministry would investigate the case, but to date the causes of death would be unknown.


Rodriguez was a columnist of economics, justice and politics in the digital media outlet Repú In addition, he was a twitter user and known in social networks for his publications on current national issues.


For the Office of the Special Rapporteur, it is essential for the Guatemalan State to completely, effectively, and impartially investigate this crime that affects all of Guatemalan society. It must establish the motives for it, and legally determine whether there was any connection with his activity as a communicator. In this sense, it is fundamental for the authorities to investigate the facts without ruling out the theory that the murder may have been connected to journalistic activity and freedom of expression.


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.


Both the Commission and the Inter-American Court have addressed the chilling effect that crimes against journalists have on other media professionals, as well as on citizens who intend to report abuses of power or unlawful acts of any kind. This chilling effect can only be prevented, according to the Commission, "by swift action on the part of the State to punish all perpetrators, as is its duty under international and domestic law."


The Office of the Special Rapporteur urges the State of Guatemala to continue working on the establishment of a special protection mechanism for journalists that will enable it to confront the country’s serious and structural situation of violence against journalists and media workers. In this regard, the Office urges the State of Guatemala to make progress in the creation of such a mechanism and ensure that its content is in accordance with international standards and in effective and comprehensive consultation with civil society organizations, journalists and media workers.


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.