MARCH 17, 2005
Posted: March 30, 2005
Marielos Monzón, Radio Universidad
Gabriel Mazzarovich, Radio Universidad
Monzón, a radio journalist based in Guatemala City, received several threatening phone calls. Mazzarovich, Monzón’s Uruguayan-born producer, was falsely reported dead to Uruguayan media.
Around 1 p.m., Monzón received three cell phone calls that appeared to come from her home phone number, she told CPJ. She answered but nobody responded. When she called home to find out if there was a problem, she was told that no one there had called her. Minutes later, she received another call that again appeared to come from her home. This time the caller, who had a masculine voice and did not identify himself, insulted and threatened her, saying at one point: “Stop defending those stinking Indians, bitch, or we’re going to kill you.”
Several minutes later, the Uruguayan Embassy in Guatemala City called Monzón, claiming that at least two Uruguayan media outlets had been told about Mazzarovich’s death, and asking her to confirm the news. Contacted by CPJ, Mazzarovich said that unidentified individuals had called a newspaper and a radio station in Uruguay to say he had been murdered. After contacting Mazzarovich and confirming he was alive, the media outlets reported on the phone calls and denied news of his death.
Monzón and Mazzarovich work on the “Buenos Días” (Good Morning) program, broadcast by University of San Carlos’ Radio Universidad 92.1 FM station. In addition, Monzón is a columnist for the Guatemala City-based daily Prensa Libre, and Mazzarovich is a correspondent for the Inter Press Service news agency.
While Monzón could not attribute the threats to any party, she believed they were linked to Radio Universidad’s extensive coverage of nationwide protests against the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, which was ratified by the Guatemalan Congress in early March and was subsequently signed by President Óscar Berger. The protests were led by Indian organizations, peasants’ groups, and trade unions. At least two protesters died in clashes with police and tens more were injured.
Mazzarovich told CPJ that the false news of his death could have been an attempt to intimidate him. He also speculated that he could have been the target of an assassination and that the callers rushed to spread news of his death.
Monzón and Mazzarovich filed a formal complaint with the Ministry of the Interior and the Attorney General’s Office. In addition, they contacted the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office to denounce the threats.
At the request of Guatemala’s Human Rights Ombudsman, the Washington, D.C.-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued precautionary measures asking that the Guatemalan government guarantee journalists’ safety and right to freedom of expression, Mazzarovich told CPJ.