|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
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
"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.