One journalist murdered, another attacked, in Guatemala

New York, August 20, 2013–Authorities in Guatemala should conduct a full investigation into the murder of a TV and radio journalist who was found on Monday after being reported missing for several hours, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez was killed seven days after another journalist was shot and wounded in the same state.

“Authorities must thoroughly investigate the murder of Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez and the shooting of Fredy Rodas, determine the motives, and bring those responsible to justice,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. “If these attacks go unresolved, Guatemalan journalists are likely to face more and more danger.”

Orellana’s body was found in the southwestern department of Suchitepéquez late Monday with a bullet wound in his head, according to news reports. Unidentified assailants had abducted him from his car after he had left his home early Monday morning, the reports said.

Authorities said they found Orellana’s vehicle with all of his belongings and that the attack did not appear to be a robbery. Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla said the crime did not appear to be related to Orellana’s journalistic work, but offered no evidence or further details, according to news reports.

Elmer Yat, chief prosecutor for crimes against journalists, told reporters that he would be investigating Orellana’s journalism as a possible motive.

Orellana hosted two news programs on the local cable station Canal Óptimo 23, where he had denounced local corruption. He had previously worked for more than two decades at Radio Indiana de Mazatenango and at Radio La Venadita del Cuadrante, according to news reports. Orellana had also served as mayor of the municipality of Mazatenango from 2000 to 2004.

Gunmen shot radio and print journalist Fredy Rodas at least three times on the night of August 12, according to news reports. Rodas was hospitalized with serious wounds but was discharged this past weekend, an official at the hospital told CPJ. He is the Mazatenango correspondent for Radio Sonora and also works at the daily newspaper Al Día.

On Saturday, authorities said they had arrested the alleged gunman in the attack but offered no information as to a possible motive, according to news reports.

Journalists say they have been subjected to a climate of violence and intimidation in Guatemala in recent months. The Guatemala City-based daily elPeriódico said unidentified gunmen on motorcycles shot at the home of the Vernick Gudiel, head of the paper’s investigative reporting unit, on Thursday, but did not offer more information. No one was injured in the attack. The daily also reported a series of cyber-attacks earlier this year and harassment of its president by police agents.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Guatemala page.