SRFOE condemns violence against journalists in Guatemala and urges authorities to investigate effectively and find those responsible

August 24, 2023

Washington D.C. – The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) emphatically condemns the murder of journalists Edin Alonso and Hugo Gutiérrez in Guatemala and calls on the State to investigate the facts in a complete, effective and impartial manner, as well as to prosecute and punish those responsible.

According to public information, on August 11, Edin Alonso and Hugo Gutiérrez were killed in the department of Retalhuleu, southwest of Guatemala City, by unknown persons on a motorcycle. The events occurred after Alonso and Gutiérrez covered an alleged case of femicide.

According to reports from civil society organizations, the journalists were the administrators of the Facebook page. "White Horse News", dedicated to reporting on matters of general interest to its community. The Office of the Special Rapporteur warns that this is the third murder of journalists in the country recorded by this Office, taking into account the crime against Eduardo Fernando Mendizábal Gálvez, which occurred on March 18 of this year.

The State of Guatemala reported that it is conducting the corresponding investigations in order to clarify the facts and identify those responsible. In particular, he said that the investigation of the murders of Alonso and Gutiérrez is in charge of the District Prosecutor's Office of Retalhuleu, which is already conducting proceedings around this process. He also pointed out that different measures have been implemented that guarantee special attention to cases of affectations to journalists, such as differentiated attention in the Public Ministry through the Office of the Prosecutor for Crimes against Journalists and institutional mechanisms to protect communicators.

In view of the foregoing considerations, the Office of the Special Rapporteur reiterates whereas violence against journalists – and in particular murders – represents one of the most extreme forms of censorship, not only because it threatens the life and integrity of the victim, but also because these crimes have a multi-offensive effect, i.e. they affect several legally protected assets, namely: (i) the victim's right to express himself or herself and express her ideas; ii) the inhibiting effect they generate in the guild and communicators of the same area, region or country; and (iii) the right to freedom of expression in its collective dimension, insofar as society as a whole is deprived of being informed. Consequently, democratic debate is also affected, as the free and open debate that presupposes a healthy and robust democracy is restricted or suppressed.

The Office also reiterates that States are obliged to prevent, protect, investigate, prosecute and criminally punish those responsible for crimes against journalists. According to what the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has recently highlighted, in the case of a journalist, these obligations acquire "a reinforced and differentiated character, due to the impact that this type of crime has on democracy," and the investigation must be "aimed at establishing the possible relationship of the crime and the activity displayed by the victim."

Therefore, this Office reiterates its call to the State of Guatemala to increase efforts to prevent violence against the press and media workers, and urges the State to investigate the facts in accordance with international standards on the matter.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system. The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose mandate derives from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights.

No. R193/23

11:37 AM