A police officer is seen in Guatemala City on July 18, 2020. Journalist Mario Ortega was recently killed in the southwestern city of San José. (AP/Moises Castillo)

Guatemalan journalist Mario Ortega shot and killed

Los Angeles, November 18, 2020 — Guatemalan authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the killing of journalist Mario Ortega and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On November 10, two unidentified individuals shot Ortega outside his home in the southwestern city of San José, according to news reports and a relative of the journalist, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. Following the attack, Ortega was transferred to a local hospital, where he remained in intensive care until he died on November 14, according to those reports.

Ortega was the founder of San José Total, a TV station and digital news outlet where he also worked as a reporter covering local political and social issues, according to the relative and a statement by the Association of Guatemalan Journalists, a local press advocacy group.

“In a country where journalists’ killings so often remain unsolved, the recent killing of Guatemalan journalist Mario Ortega is deeply concerning,” said CPJ Central and South Americas Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Guatemalan authorities must act swiftly and open a credible investigation into Ortega’s killing, determine if it was related to his reporting, and bring those responsible to justice.”

“We know that he received threats but he never gave more information to the family,” Ortega’s relative said. Ortega also worked part-time at a local gas station, his relative told CPJ.

Jordán Rodas, Guatemala’s official human rights ombudsman, condemned the killing and urged authorities to investigate the case in a message posted on his Twitter account.

CPJ called the Guatemalan National Police Headquarters and Pedro Castillo, a police spokesperson, for comment, but no one answered. CPJ messaged the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Journalists, but did not immediately receive any response.

Since 1992, at least six journalists have been killed in Guatemala in direct relation to their work, according to CPJ research. A CPJ report published earlier this year found that journalists outside Guatemala City, the capital, often face aggressive harassment for their coverage of local issues.