Guatemalan TV journalist survives gunshot to head

Two unidentified gunmen on June 14, 2017, shot Carlos Danilo Rodríguez Ixtecox, the owner and director of the local TV channel Multiviral Canal 19, in a small grocery store his family owns in Puerto Barrios, on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast.

Around 5:30 p.m on June 14, two people entered the Don Baratón shop and shot the journalist in the head and the right arm, according to news reports. Rodríguez is the owner and director of cable news channel Multiviral Canal 19 and is the director of the Notizabal news program in Puerto Barrios.

Volunteer firefighters took Rodríguez to a nearby hospital, where he remains in stable condition, according to reports.

Julio Paredes, an official with the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Journalists in Guatemala’s Public Ministry, told the Committee to Protect Journalists that he had spoken with Rodríguez, and that the journalist was conscious and assisting with the investigation. According to Paredes, one of the bullets struck Rodríguez’s head but did not enter his skull. He said doctors planned to conduct tests for several more days before operating to remove the bullet.

While initial reports described the attack as an attempted robbery, Paredes said the special prosecutor’s office is investigating all possible motives, including Rodríguez’s work as a journalist.

Hector Coloj, an investigator with Guatemalan press freedom organization CERIGUA, told CPJ that Rodríguez has covered local news in Puerto Barrios for about five years

In March 2016, Rodríguez filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office for Human Rights (PDH, by its Spanish acronym) reporting threats he had received from an employee of the Puerto Barrios municipal government, according to CERIGUA.

Rodríguez told CERIGUA the threats started after he questioned the mayor of Puerto Barrios, Hugo René Sarceño Orellana, about the contracting process for the city’s electric company. He said he was barred from covering municipal events, and city employees and public relations officials began criticizing and threatening him on social media.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to CPJ’s request for comment.

Coloj said Rodríguez should have benefited from government protection after reporting the threats.

“We don’t know if they failed, or if [security measures] were removed” prior to the June 14 attack, he said.

Paredes told CPJ that Rodríguez will now receive police protection at his home and at work.

In Guatemala, widespread violence can make it difficult to tell whether journalists were targeted for their work or whether they were victims of ordinary crime, CPJ research has found.