Mara Salvatrucha gangsters attend mass in prison. Members of the gang have been charged with the murder of a journalist. (AP/Luis Romero)

CPJ hails conviction in journalist murder in El Salvador

June 7, 2012 3:55 PM ET

New York, June 7, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the conviction in the 2011 murder of Salvadoran cameraman Alfredo Antonio Hurtado Núñez, but calls on authorities to ensure that the other gunman charged for the crime is brought to justice.

Hurtado, 39, was headed to his job as the night cameraman for Canal 33's "Teleprensa" news program in San Salvador, the capital, on April 25, 2011, when two men shot him multiple times, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews.

On May 31, a Salvadoran court found Jonathan Alexander Martínez Castro guilty in Hurtado's murder and sentenced him to 30 years in prison, according to news reports. Authorities have also charged Marlon Stanley Abrego Rivas, who is currently a fugitive, for the crime, according to news reports.

Authorities reported that the men, who are members of the violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang, targeted Hurtado because they believed he had identified another MS-13 gang member to the police as the perpetrator of a murder. News accounts reported that the gang members suspected the journalist because they knew he covered police operations against local gangs for Canal 33.

"We welcome this conviction as a rare blow against impunity, which sends a clear message to those who use violent means to silence journalists," said CPJ Americas Senior Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría. "Authorities in El Salvador must now ensure the other gunman is brought to justice."

CPJ research has found that journalists covering El Salvador's widespread gang violence often risk becoming targets themselves. In March, after the Salvadoran online newsmagazine El Faro exposed a secret government deal with criminal gangs, a government official said El Faro journalists could be in danger for their reporting, but did not offer any protection. In 2009, Christian Poveda, a French-Spanish filmmaker who had documented gang violence in the country for decades, was slain by members of the rival Mara 18 gang.

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