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New York, April 28, 2000 — A photographer for the Guatemala City daily Prensa Libre was killed yesterday and two other journalists were injured when private security guards opened fire on rioters in Guatemala City.
The incident took place after 2 p.m. on the afternoon of April 27, when demonstrators protesting a bus-fare increase announced earlier this week tried to vandalize an auto parts store in downtown Guatemala City. Private security guards on the roof of the store opened fire on the crowd, hitting the three journalists and several other bystanders, according to CPJ sources in Guatemala and press accounts.
Roberto Martínez, 37 and the father of six, was shot twice and later pronounced dead at the San Juan de Dios hospital. Christian Alejandro García, a cameraman for the television news program “Notisiete,” and Julio Cruz, a reporter with the Guatemala City daily Siglo Veintiuno, were both injured and are being treated in the San Juan de Dios hospital.
Two bystanders, Josefina Ceballos and Sergio Jiovanni Ortíz Vásquez, were also killed. Local sources reported sixteen injured in total.
Journalists at the scene identified and detained the two security guards, who are now in police custody, according to CPJ sources. At the time of the attack, Martínez was carrying a camera and was surrounded by colleagues who also carried cameras and other professional equipment, clearly identifying them as journalists.
“CPJ is saddened and disturbed by this tragic violation of press freedom in Guatemala,” noted CPJ’s executive director Ann K. Cooper. “We will be monitoring the investigation closely to ensure that it is thorough, complete, and carried out in a timely manner. In addition, we call on Guatemalan authorities to support the work of the press by making every possible effort to ensure that journalists currently working under dangerous conditions are able to carry out their work safely.”