Radio producer gunned down

New York, May 4, 2007—Veteran Guatemalan radio producer Mario Rolando López Sánchez was gunned down outside his home in Guatemala City yesterday. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating whether López’ murder is related to his professional work.

López, producer of the political debate program “Cosas y Casos de la Vida Nacional” and various social programs on national privately-owned Radio Sonora, was shot at 7 p.m. as he was walking from his car to his home in a northern neighborhood in Guatemala City, according to local press reports and CPJ interviews.

Arnulfo Agustín Guzmán, Director of Radio Sonora, told CPJ that López was shot four times in the head, back and chest. According to his wife, Blanca Castellano, nothing was stolen from his car or wallet. López was taken to the local Hospital Roosevelt where he died moments after arrival, the Guatemalan press reported.

López was one of the founders of Radio Sonora, where he had worked as a producer for 14 years, said Agustín. His program, “Cosas y Casos de la Vida Nacional,” was critical of Guatemalan politics in general, added Agustín.

According to the journalist’s colleagues and family, he had not received threats. However, Agustín told CPJ that the radio station has been repeatedly threatened over the phone. Radio Sonora’s director believes that López’ murder was not accidental as it happened on World Press Freedom Day, and on the day the country’s presidential campaign was launched.

Local authorities are investigating the murder but they do not have a motive yet, said Agustín.

“We are saddened by the death of Mario Rolando López Sánchez, and offer our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on authorities to investigate his murder thoroughly and expeditiously, and to ensure the safety of all Guatemalan journalists so that they may cover the presidential campaign without fear of reprisal.”