Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Guatemala
As of December 31, 1998

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Considering that CPJ has documented 29 journalists killed in the line of duty in Guatemala since 1981, the virtual halt of violence against journalists this year suggests how dramatically conditions have improved for the Guatemalan press. In the one incident documented this year by CPJ, a police officer who threatened a reporter was suspended from his duties.

While violence has subsided, tensions between the press and the government of President Alvaro Arzú Irigoyen have mounted. Early in the year, Arzú lashed out at the press for reporting on violent crime, arguing that such reports scare away tourists.

Arzú's regime has sought to control the press by depriving critical publications of government advertising -- a strategy which forced the sale of the highly acclaimed weekly Crónica in December. The magazine's new owners appointed as editor a conservative journalist who is close to the Arzú government. Most of Crónica's reporters quit in protest. "Guatemala Flash," a radio program which has been on the air for more than 50 years, was also sold to a pro-government investor after what some local journalists described as a government-directed financial boycott.

Although some financial harassment was directed at the daily  elPeriódico, it has fared well in 1998. Acquired in 1997 by a publishing house that owns Prensa Libre, Guatemala's largest newspaper, elPeriódico has been able to maintain its independence while developing its investigative reporting.

Despite government harassment, the Guatemalan press continued its drive toward greater independence and professionalization with the support of the country's increasingly assertive civil society. The Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala (APG), the country's largest press freedom organization, became a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Clearing House (IFEX), and organized journalism workshops in collaboration with San Carlos University .

"The government doesn't realize that political space and freedom of expression aren't gracious concessions of the government but hard-fought gains," noted columnist and APG president Eduardo Villatoro.
Attacks on the Press in Guatamala in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
11/20/98 Hermán René Betancourth Castillo, Emisoras Unidas Threatened
01/01/98 Crónica Harassed
01/01/98 elPeriódico Harassed

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