York, June 8, 2009--An
unidentified gunman shot and killed Guatemalan television reporter Marco
Antonio Estrada on Saturday night in the eastern city of Chiquimula, the local press reported.
Estrada covered general news, which included organized crime
and drug trafficking, for the national television station Tele Diario. Local
reporters told CPJ that Estrada's region has experienced both increasing
criminality and drug trafficking recently.
"We are saddened by Marco
Antonio Estrada's death and present our deepest
condolences to his colleagues, family, and friends," Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior program coordinator for the Americas
said. "We urge Guatemalan authorities to conduct a transparent and
thorough investigation into Estrada's killing, and determine whether he was
targeted in retaliation for his reporting."
Around 8 p.m. on Saturday, an unidentified individual
approached Estrada as he was stepping off his motorcycle on a street in
Chiquimula, 138 miles (222 kilometers) east of Guatemala City, according to local news
reports and CPJ interviews. The assailant fired four shots, killing Estrada
immediately, Amílcar Rodas Ruano, a reporter for Tele Diario, told CPJ.
Witnesses quoted in the local press said the gunman fled in a car that was
parked at the scene of the crime. Rodas said Estrada's cell phone was missing.
Estrada, 39, had worked for more than 20 years as a
journalist, local reporters told CPJ. He had covered Chiquimula for Tele Diario
for the last 10 years, reports in the local press said. Estrada's wife told
local reporters that she did not know of any threats against her husband.
Chiquimula reporters told CPJ that local authorities are looking into Estrada's
work as a possible motive.
April, unidentified gunmen killed veteran reporter Rolando Santiz
and injured cameraman Antonio de León in Guatemala
City. The news crew for the national television station
Telecentro 13 had covered the police beat. Authorities have not made any
Violence associated with organized crime has escalated in Guatemala
in the last few years, creating a generalized climate of fear. In 2008,
two journalists were killed and a third was kidnapped, according to CPJ
research. On May 12, an unidentified assailant shot and killed Jorge
Mérida Pérez, a correspondent for the national daily Prensa Libre
who had been covering drug trafficking and corruption in southwestern
Quetzaltenango. Self-censorship is so pervasive in the interior of the country
that massive gun battles between drug traffickers go unreported, according
to CPJ research.