New York, August 9, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a murderous attack against the Kaieteur News printing plant that came amid a series of violent episodes in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, on Tuesday night. Masked assailants with automatic weapons killed four printing staff employees execution-style, the newspaper’s owner told CPJ today. A fifth printing plant employee was critically wounded, he said, and a security guard was injured.
“This despicable act of violence must be fully investigated and all those responsible must be brought to justice,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We call on Guyanese authorities to protect all journalists and media workers to ensure that they can do their work safely.”
Just before midnight, at least 12 gunmen stormed the Kaieteur News printing plant in an industrial area on the outskirts of Georgetown, the daily’s owner, Glen Lall, told CPJ today. Masked assailants pointed their guns at a security guard and ordered him to open the gates. Once inside, the attackers forced the guard onto the floor and shot at him as he cried for help, Lall said.
Lall said he was told that six printing plant employees hid in the bathroom when they heard the security guard’s screams. But five employees came out of hiding after they grew fearful of the gunmen’s threats, he said. Lall said the attackers forced the employees to lie face down on the floor, where they were shot in the back of the head. One survived and was in a critical condition at a local hospital. The sixth worker remained in the bathroom and was unharmed, he said. Lall said the security guard was in stable condition.
The dead were identified in local news reports as Richard Stewart, Chetram Persaud, Elion Wegman, and Mark Mikoo.
Local and international press reports said a prison protest, an attempted prison break, and other acts of violence were reported in Georgetown, but they offered conflicting accounts of deaths and injuries. The Associated Press said the violence may be linked to prison protests over crowding and water shortages.
Lall told CPJ that he did not know the motive for the attack at the printing plant, nor could he say whether the newspaper was targeted or simply swept up in the violence. The Kaieteur News newsroom is in a separate location. He said that the newspaper had received recent threats over coverage of a series of Georgetown rapes.
Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo visited the printing plant this morning. He told local reporters that he believed this was a deliberate attack against the paper.