JULY 11, 2005
Posted: July 28, 2005

Edwin Paxtor, Prensa Libre, Noti7
Denys Roldán, Prensa Libre
Bejamín Martínez, Prensa Libre
Rolando Hernández, Radio Chiquimula
Arnulfo Ortiz, Radio Chiquimula


A group of peasants—and former members of a paramilitary group—attacked several journalists who were covering the takeover of a road bridge in the eastern department of Chiquimula, near the border of Honduras.

Paxtor, a reporter for the Guatemala City-based daily Prensa Libre and for Canal 7’s news program “Noti7,” told CPJ that after learning the peasants intended to block a bridge at the Inter-American Route, he went there with his wife, a camerawoman, to cover the protest. Once he arrived at the scene, around 8:30 a.m., a protest leader, referring to Paxtor, said, “This son of a bitch is the one we have to kill.” Then about 20 peasants, Paxtor said, ran after him.

After running for several meters, Paxtor turned and began filming his persecutors, which enraged them even more, he said. Paxtor kept running until he took refuge in a hotel, from which he continued to report using his cell phone. While Paxtor was being chased, he lost a video camera and a cell phone, which were taken by the peasants and destroyed. He said that his wife, who had stayed on the other side of the bridge, sought the help of a police officer, but the police officer got on his motorcycle and fled.

Hernández, a reporter, told CPJ that he and Ortiz, a cameraman, were also filming the incident when they, too, were beaten by the peasants and had three tape recorders and a video camera stolen. Roldán and Martínez, two other Prensa Libre reporters, were hit on the back with sticks and machetes, Prensa Libre reported. Other passers-by and drivers were beaten by the peasants, according to Prensa Libre.

The peasants, former members of the Civilian Self-Defense Patrols (PAC), were demanding the resignation of Chiquimula governor Boris España and monetary compensation for their services during the country’s civil war. They blocked other points in the road and congregated in front of the governor’s offices. The paramilitary forces were organized by the government to fight alongside the army against leftist guerrillas in the 1980s. They were officially disarmed in 1995, but many have refused to surrender their weapons and continue to be accused of serious human rights violations.

The journalists filed a complaint with the police the day of the attack. The following day, they ratified the complaint before prosecutors, Hernández said.