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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Bodyguard of independent cable channel director killed in Guatemala



Karen Rottman. Photo: Vea Canal.

Viltor García, a bodyguard for cable channel director Karen Rottman, had just finished his shift on Oct. 19 when he was shot and killed by attackers in a vehicle with tinted glass windows in Guatemala City, informed Reporters without Borders (RSF). Rottman is the director of Vea Canal, an independent cable channel critical of the nation's administration.

RSF has called for Guatemalan investigators to acknowledge this attack as an incident that reflects the systematic problem of the dangerous and repressive environment journalists in the nation face while doing their job.

"This tragedy reminds us that media collaborators in the region risk their lives all the time in honor of the freedom to inform. The investigators shouldn't fear that their investigations will reach the circles of power, where Vea Canal is not seen positively," RSF said.

The killing occurred a week after Rottman's bodyguards were physically assaulted at a restaurant where Vea Canal representatives were meeting with employees from the Ministry for Public Affairs. According to Rottman, the assailants were transport sector employees of the department of El Progreso.

Although President Otto Pérez Molina established the preventative Program to Protect Journalists earlier this year in May in an effort to tackle the issue of impunity in the nation, violence against journalists has persisted.

So far in 2013, four journalists have been killed in Guatemala: Jaime Napoleón Jarquín Duarte, a writer for daily Nuestro Diario; Luis Alberto Lemus Ruano, the vice president of the Jutiapa Association of Journalists; Luis Lima, a journalist and radio host; and Carlos Alberto Orellana Chávez, a regional reporter working for a program on Canal Óptimo 23.

Frank La Rue, the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression, denounced this new wave of violence in the nation in an opinion piece published Aug. 22 in Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, stating that "this year's level of aggressions had not been seen in a decade."

Additionally, La Rue condemned comments made by Interior minister Mauricio López Bonilla on Aug. 17 that claimed the killings were motivated by personal reasons and not related to the journalistic work of the men.



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