Journalist abducted, threatened with death

April 12, 2002

His Excellency Alfonso Portillo Cabrera
President of the Republic of Guatemala
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Via facsimile: 011-502-239-0090

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by Wednesday’s abduction of Guatemalan journalist David Herrera, who was threatened with death during the kidnapping.

The attack appears to be in retaliation for Herrera’s work with Gerry Hadden, the Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean correspondent for the U.S.-based National Public Radio (NPR).

Herrera works as a free-lancer for NPR, among other international news organizations. During the last week, Herrera and Hadden had been covering several sensitive stories, including recent murders blamed on government forces.

According to an account provided to CPJ by Hadden, Herrera arrived at the offices of Enlaces, a consortium of free-lance journalists in downtown Guatemala City, at around 10:30 a.m. on April 10.

As Herrera was getting out of a truck that Hadden had rented for the week, he noticed four men loitering in the area. The men, at least two of whom were carrying automatic pistols, approached Herrera and pushed him into the truck.

The assailants asked Herrera, “Where is the material?,” apparently referring to the recordings and documents the journalists had gathered during the week. Herrera emptied his pockets and handed over his belongings, but they kept asking, “Where is the material?” and searched the truck.

The assailants told Herrera that they were going to kill him, and one cocked his gun. Herrera then jumped out of the moving car, ran back to the Enlaces office, and filed a police report.

Hadden heard about the attack and went to the Enlaces offices. By that time, the police had assigned officers to guard the offices, and detectives were talking to Herrera. Although he suffered no physical injuries, he was in shock and checked into a private clinic.

According to an article in today’s Boston Globe, a government official said the kidnapping was a carjacking, unrelated to Herrera’s work. But the assailants’ search for his “material” indicates that he was targeted for his journalism.

The Guatemalan government has an obligation to ensure that members of the media do not suffer violence or threats for fulfilling their professional duties. We call on you to do everything in your power to bring the perpetrators of this kidnapping and attempted murder to justice.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter. We await your reply.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director