Journalist Jorge Tizol was detained on April 6 while covering a police raid in southwest Guatemala (Screenshots: Jorge Tizol/TikTok and Canal Noti Retalteco/Facebook)

Guatemalan journalist Jorge Tizol detained while covering police raid

Mexico City, April 9, 2024— Guatemalan authorities must drop all legal proceedings against journalist Jorge Tizol and hold accountable those responsible for his unwarranted detention, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

According to news reports, on April 6, police arrested Tizol, who reports for the La Jefa radio station, various local TV stations, and from his Canal Noti Retalteco Facebook page, near Retalhuleu in southwest Guatemala. In a phone interview with CPJ, Tizol said he was covering a police raid on a ranch at approximately 9 a.m. when the operation’s lead prosecutor ordered his arrest on grounds of trespassing at the private property. Tizol was live-streaming the raid on Facebook, and CPJ confirmed via video review that an officer instructed him to leave, prompting Tizol to comply by walking away from the property and toward the street before he was arrested.

“The prosecutor did not give me time to leave,” Tizol told CPJ. “She immediately and aggressively ordered the police to arrest me and seize my phones and motorcycle without a warrant or anything.” 

Tizol was then transferred to a local hospital after experiencing a blood pressure related health complication. There, he was notified by a local judge that prosecutors accused him of trespassing. A judge released Tizol on bail, pending trial, and set an April 17 hearing date. 

“Guatemalan authorities must drop any criminal proceedings and thoroughly investigate the prosecutor and the police officers responsible for Jorge Tizol’s detention,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s Latin America program coordinator in São Paulo. “Journalists have the right to report on matters relevant to their communities, and local authorities should not punish them for that.” 

In the official document shared by Tizol with CPJ, police officers alleged that the journalist unlawfully accessed the property and justified the seizure of his phones and motorcycle as “evidence.” According to the document, prosecutors were raiding the ranch as part of a cattle theft investigation.

Tizol is a veteran Retalhuleu journalist with over 20 years of professional experience. On his Facebook page, Canal Noti Retalteco, he covers local news, including politics, crime, and corruption. He has served as a correspondent for major Guatemalan media outlets, including Prensa Libre, Guatevisión, Emisoras Unidas, and Canal Antigua.

In a social media post on February 16, 2024, Tizol accused local politicians of doxxing him after his private information, including phone number and residential address, was posted online.

CPJ called the Retalhuleu prosecutor’s office for comment but did not receive a response after several attempts. CPJ also emailed the main prosecutor’s office in Guatemala City for comment but did not immediately receive a response.