Demonstrators gesture in front of police officers during a protest to demand the resignation of Guatemala's President Alejandro Giammattei in Guatemala City, Guatemala November 28, 2020. A journalist covering anti-government protests was deliberately hit with an iron pole. (Reuters/Luis Echeverria)

Guatemalan journalist Jovanna García attacked while covering anti-government protest

Los Angeles, December 4, 2020 – Guatemalan authorities should ensure journalists’ safety while covering protests and investigate attacks on the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On November 28, a man participating in an anti-government demonstration in Guatemala City hit Jovanna García, a journalist with the online outlet Ruda, with an iron pole in her clavicle and shoulder and called her an “infiltrated feminist,” according to a report by IM-Defensoras, a regional human rights group, and Ruda editor-in-chief Quimy de León, who spoke with CPJ via phone. 

“Guatemalan authorities must ensure that journalists can cover protests freely without harassment or threats to their personal safety,” said CPJ South and Central Americas program coordinator Natalie Southwick, in New York. “Authorities must thoroughly investigate the attack on Jovanna García and hold the perpetrator to account.” 

García was wearing press accreditation and a helmet with “press” on it when she was struck, said de León, who added the journalist was taking time off work to recover in a safe location and so she would speak on García’s behalf. De León said the journalist had a moderate contusion because of the blow. 

According to de León, García has previously faced harassment for her reporting. In September 2020, after she contributed to a Ruda article on demonstrations held in recognition of the International Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion, García received harassing and threatening messages on her social media accounts and personal phone, some containing personal information such as her home address, IM-Defensoras reported.

Daniel Ordoñez, director of the Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Journalists, told CPJ via phone that his office is already in contact with García and is waiting for the journalist to feel well enough for an in-person meeting in order to open an official investigation into the incident.

CPJ called the Guatemalan National Police Headquarters and Pablo Castillo, a police spokesperson, for comment, but did not receive any response.  

Since November 21, when protests against Congress and President Alejandro Giammattei began in response to a proposed national budget for 2021, at least 10 journalists have been harassed or attacked, according to Voice of America, citing the Inter-American Press Association. Freelance photographer Carlo Sebastián was assaulted by members of the national police on the first day of the protests, as reported by the Guatemalan news outlet Guatevisión

CPJ’s special report on press freedom challenges in Guatemala, published March 2020, detailed violence against journalists while on assignment.