Freedom of Expression

Press Release 25/00


The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the OAS, Santiago A. Canton, condemns the murder of Roberto Martínez, a photographic reporter for the Prensa Libre newspaper, and the attacks on his colleagues Christian Alexander García, a cameraman for Notisiete, and Julio Cruz of the Siglo Veintiuno publishing company, all of which occurred on April 27, when they were covering the fourth day of demonstrations in Guatemala City to protest increases in urban transport fares. He also condemns the murder of Josefina Ceballos and Sergio Giovanni Ortiz, who died several hours after they were taken to hospital. According to preliminary reports, those responsible for these events were security guards at a private enterprise, who allegedly shot at the crowd indiscriminately, hitting all the above persons. Those guards have reportedly been detained.

The Rapporteur wishes to express his utmost repudiation of this crime and calls upon the Guatemalan authorities to investigate what happened and punish those responsible. The assassination of journalists is the most brutal of all forms of attack on freedom of the press. In the Americas, at least 150 journalists have been murdered in recent decades and many others have been threatened and prevented from carrying out their work. These horrific figures indicate that journalism has become the most dangerous profession in the Hemisphere.

The American Convention on Human Rights, to which Guatemala is a state party, establishes that States have a duty to prevent, investigate, and punish every violation of the rights recognized in the Convention and to make reparation for the harm done by such violation. In the case of journalists, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has stated that failure to conduct a thorough investigation into the assassination of a journalist and failure to punish the perpetrators and those who put them up to the crime are particularly grave because of the impact on society. Impunity in the case of such crimes not only intimidates other journalists, but all other citizens as well, since it makes them afraid to denounce injustice, wrongs, and illicit behavior of any kind.

The Rapporteur calls upon the Guatemalan State to conduct a prompt, serious, and effective inquiry into the assassinations of reporter Robero Martínez, Josefina Ceballos and Sergio Giovanni Ortiz, and into the attacks on journalists Christian Alexander García and Julio Cruz, and to punish all those responsible.

The Guatemalan State must make every effort to prevent impunity in this case, while at the same time devising ways to guarantee those who work in the media effective protection, so that they can carry out their valuable mission of informing society.

Santiago A. Canton
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Washington, D.C. April 28, 2000