The police arrested Byron Orlando Velásquez Jacinto on 12 September on suspicion of carrying out the murder of radio journalist Eduardo Maas Bol two days before in Cobán, in the centre of the country.
The police said Velásquez matched the description given by a witness. He went to a hospital on the day of the murder with a hand injury. In a search of his home, police found blood-stained clothes and a gold chain that may have belonged to Maas.
11.09.06 - Press freedom in peril as journalist is gunned down and two more under threat of death
Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm at a series of assaults on press freedom in Guatemala: the murder of Eduardo Maas Bol, of Radio Punto, shot dead in Cobán, central Guatemala on 9 September and a murder attempt and death threats against other radio journalists.
Maas Bol, 58, died after five shots were fired as he was returning home from an evening out, at 4am. Witnesses said the journalist lost control of his car, as a taxi approached and shots were heard.
According to another version, the journalist was accompanied by a colleague, Selvin Zepeda, who apparently approached a taxi to take them to Santa Cruz. Maas Bol got into the taxi, where a conversation started and shots were then heard. The journalist’s body was found in his car parked near the police station, with five bullet wounds to his arms and body.
Maas Bol also worked for the daily El Correo del Norte and Radio Mía. Editorial executives at Punto 10 said that neither his colleagues nor his family knew of any threats against him because of his work. However, Ángel Martín Tax, of Radio Sonora and Correo del Norte, took a call in which he was told he was “next on the list” after Eduardo Maas Bol.
On 23 August, Vinicio Aguilar Mancilla, presenter on Radio 10, was shot at by two assailants on a motorbike. One bullet broke his jaw on the right side, went through his cheek and injured his right hand.
The previous evening, his colleague, Oscar Rodolfo Castañeda, was threatened live on radio by a listener. “This is a message for Oscar Rodolfo Castañeda: you are digging you own grave by talking about tax fraud. You have one week to leave the country.”
The two journalists had exposed alleged tax evasion by a major company and raised other sensitive issues such public safety, genocide and impunity. They have yet to receive the protection they have called on the authorities to provide.
“Press freedom has certainly improved since the end of the civil war in 1996. The decriminalisation of the offence of insult, in February 2006, also marked significant progress,” said Reporters Without Borders. “Nevertheless, the murder of Eduardo Maas Bol and the repeated threats against his colleagues on Radio 10 gives rise to fears of a resurgence of violence against the media”.
“We call for urgent investigations into the murder of Eduardo Maas Bol, the attempted murder of Vinicio Aguilar Mancilla and the threats made against Oscar Rodolfo Castañeda”, said the organisation.