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Guatemala5 March 2003

Journalist specialising in human rights subject to intimidation

Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern over the threats and intimidation to which journalist Marielos Monzón, of the daily "Prensa Libre", has been subjected. "We ask you to shed light on the incidents denounced by the journalist so that those responsible are duly punished," Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard stated in separate letters to Attorney General Carlos David de León Argueta and Interior Minister José Adolfo Reyes Calderón. "Human rights violations in Guatemala continue to be a dangerous topic for journalists. In April 2002, a journalist who was investigating this subject matter was forced to leave the country after escaping a kidnapping attempt," the organisation recalled.

Monzón has stated that unknown individuals entered her Guatemala City home on 2 March 2003. They searched her two vehicles but only stole some parts of the car radios, even though the keys were in the ignition. When contacted by Reporters Without Borders, the journalist explained that she had received 26 threatening telephone calls in total over the past few days, before and after the intrusion at her home. The unknown callers warned her not to "betray the country." Two individuals who have expressed support for Monzón also received threatening calls, during which they were advised to stop assisting the journalist and warned that they were being watched.

In the 25 February edition of her weekly column, the journalist condemned military attacks on civilians in the early 1980s, during the civil war (1960-1996). In January and February, Monzón published a series of articles on the disappearance of entire families and the adoption of children of the "disappeared" during the same era.

Monzón underlined that she has been receiving threats since June 2002. On 7 June, her name appeared on a statement issued by a mysterious group known as "Guatemaltecos de Verdad" ("True Guatemalans"). The group threatened to "exterminate" Monzón, three other journalists known for their commitment to defending human rights and seven human rights activists.

In the following weeks, unknown individuals entered her home for the first time and kidnapped her dog. Afterwards, they called Monzón to warn that her children could face the same fate. The journalist sent her children out of the country for a number of months. The dog was never returned.

Reporters Without Borders also recalls that on 17 April, freelance journalist David Herrera fled to Mexico one week after a group of armed men abducted him for a short amount of time. The assailants forced their way into Herrera’s vehicle and demanded that he hand over notes from an investigation into a clandestine cemetery of victims of the military repression during the civil war (1960-1996). Herrera managed to escape by jumping out of the moving car.



In this country
7 April - Guatemala
Two young men held for TV journalist’s murder
24 October - Guatemala
Graphic artist on daily El Periódico killed by crossbow
13 October - Guatemala
Journalist officially under protection threatened by armed men near his home
25 August - Guatemala
Editor of daily El Periódico abducted and drugged and a journalist assaulted within 24 hours
13 May - Guatemala
Journalist on daily Prensa Libre shot dead at his home

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