The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the killing of television journalist in Guatemala who was shot dead yesterday by two unidentified attackers on a motorcycle while walking with his teenage grandson.
Víctor Hugo Valdez Cardona, the head of a cultural programme on the local cable network TL-COM, was killed while walking in a street in the eastern city of Chiquimula, near the border with Honduras and some 175 km from the capital, Guatemala City.
The two gunmen reportedly shot Valdez, 66, at close range before escaping. The motive for the killing was not immediately known.
“Our thoughts go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr. Valdez and we urge authorities to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to justice,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “We also support the continued demands of the Association of Guatemalan Journalists (APG) for the establishment of a special protection mechanism for journalists.”
Guatemala’s government in 2012 pledged during the country’s Universal Periodic Review before the U.N. Human Rights Council to create such a mechanism. However, the process of doing so, which local journalist groups complain that they have not been included in, has apparently stalled.
The country continues to be extremely dangerous for journalists. Especially in the provinces, those covering corruption and other sensitive subjects frequently face threats to their lives. According to IPI’s Death Watch, at least 13 journalists have been killed in relation to their work in Guatemala in the past 10 years. Three of those journalists were killed after Guatemala’s government first raised the prospect of creating a special mechanism, all of them within one week in March 2015.
Danilo López, of Prensa Libre, and Federico Salazar, of Radio Nuevo Mundo, were gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in Mazatenango, 170 kilometres south of Guatemala’s capital, on March 10, 2015 while walking through the city’s main square. A third journalist, Marvin Tunches, a reporter for a local TV station, was also wounded in the attack.
Three days later, Guido Armando Giovanni Villatoro Ramos, a news cameraman for the Servicable company, was gunned down in Chicacao in the southern Guatemalan province of Suchitepequez. Villator was reportedly being held hostage by extortionists demanding money from Servicable when he was killed.
Early this year, Estéreo Azúcar radio station director Mario Roberto Salazar Barahona was gunned down on March 17, 2016 in his car in the southern Guatemalan department of Jutiapa. The motive in that case remains unclear.