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Guatemala7 March 2005

Three journalists attacked by former paramilitaries

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the use of violence against three journalists by members of the now disbanded, paramilitary Civilian Self-Defence Patrols (PACs) during a demonstration they were staging in Guatemala City on 1 March to demand government compensation.

"The attacks on these journalists were extremely serious and we demand a thorough investigation that will allow those responsible to be identified and punished," the press freedom organization said.

Ewin Silva of the TV station Telediario was hit several times on the arm, and then was struck with a sheathed machete. A woman also hit him with a stick and tore his shirt. Silva’s cameraman, Carlos García, narrowly avoided being stabbed by the point of a machete thanks to a video-cassette in the pocket of his vest that acted as shield. He said he thought the blow could have been an accident. Carla Solórzano of Radio Universidad was struck several times with a shovel.

The violence against the journalists covering the protest came when the demonstrators began accusing the press of giving more coverage to other paramilitaries, shouting, "Traitors, sell-outs, you give more space to the others."

Formed by the army for use against leftist guerrillas during the 1960-96 civil war, the PACs were implicated in many serious human rights violations. Since 2002, they have been demanding compensation of 625 US dollars per person for "services to the fatherland."

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