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Guatemala13 May 2008

Journalist on daily Prensa Libre shot dead at his home

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its dismay at the murder of Jorge Mérida Pérez, of national daily Prensa Libre, who was shot dead at his home in Coatepeque, Quetzaltenango department in the west of the country on 10 May.

The 40-year-old, whose family said he had recently been threatened, was the second journalist to be murdered in Guatemala since the start of the year.

Mérida Pérez was sitting at his computer working on an article, when an unidentified assailant on a motorbike parked outside his home and entered the house, the front door of which had been left open. He fired four shots at the journalist, who was hit in the face and died instantly. His son, Jorge Luis, aged 14, who was in the next room, was unhurt.

Police were said by the Guatemala press to be pursuing two leads unconnected with the journalist’s work: one of a crime of passion and the second of possible revenge by a local armed group. His family said that the journalist had recently received threats, but it was not known who was behind them.

Jorge Mérida Pérez, who formerly worked for the fire brigade and for the Red Cross in Coatepeque, had joined Prensa Libre as a reporter 2007.

“Our first thoughts are to express our condolences to the family and colleagues of Jorge Mérida Pérez”, Reporters Without Borders said. “Even if it is the case that there is nothing to immediately suggest a direct link between the victim’s professional activities and the murder, the authorities should pay particular attention to recent threats against him, reported by the family”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We urge the police to deploy all possible means to establish the identity of the killer and the possible instigators of the murder,” it added.

Rubén Bozarreyes Luna, presenter on Radio Gualán, was killed in a hail of bullets at commercial premises in Gualán, Zacapa department, eastern Guatemala on 12 April 2008 by a gunman who was drunk. The motive for the killing has not been established but it appeared likely it was not linked to his work.

Elsewhere, the death of Hugo Arce, of the monthly ¿Y Qué ?, found shot through the heart in a Guatemala hotel room on 23 January 2008, continues to raise questions. His family contested the official verdict of suicide.

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