For the first time in Guatemala a legal revolution is in
process to protect the freedom of the press, representing
not a triumph of justice but rather a defeat of the
democratic system, and Human Rights Ombudsman Sergio
Morales has had to introduce injunction measures to
guarantee constitutional rights.

Due to the serious events carried out the previous week by
organised groups, formed and financed by the
representatives of the Frente Republicano Guatemalteca
(FRG), a well-known journalist was killed and several were
assaulted by the mob.

With the death of Héctor Ramírez and the violence against
journalists, there is an increasing movement away from
building democracy in this country, where flagrant crimes
can be committed without the intervention of security
forces to detain the originators of the illegal acts.

The pressure applied through violent measures, against the
country’s high tribunals, is part of a strategy to promote
the candidacy of Ríos Montt and with him to become
entrenched in the government, which will guarantee the
official party the impunity and the immunity necessary to
cover up all the acts committed under the protection of
exercising power.

The press and journalists have been accused by the FRG
members of distorting information and damaging the
government’s image and this year alone there have been 18
acts of aggression against the union, from reporters to
editors.

The attitudes of the government representatives can be
explained by the unease caused to them by losing control of
the state and putting themselves into a vulnerable
situation in terms of national and international law.

Repudiation has spread against the violent events caused by
the FRG hordes, which have affected even the diplomatic
corps, which were practically besieged in their residences.

Defenders of human rights, environmentalists, politicians,
members of religious orders, business men and women,
academics, trade unionists, students, campesinos, lawyers
and representatives from various groups have fervently
condemned and rejected this break in institutionality which
is threatening the Rule of Law.

Special mention should be made of the concern expressed by
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR),
regarding the persistent deterioration of the Rule of Law
and the possibility that Efraín Ríos Montt could be a
candidate in the presidential elections this year.

The electoral process has been violent. Eleven opposition
political activists, the majority from the Alianza Nueva
Nacíon, left-wing party, have been assassinated, while
there has been an increase in acts of intimidation,
assassinations, threats, attacks to personal integrity and
violations of the homes of social and political leaders and
journalists.

In 1993 the IACHR made a statement regarding the nomination
of ex-general Ríos Montt, emphasising the ineligibility of
whoever has led movements or governments contravening the
constitutional order, consecrated in article 186 of the
Magna Carta.

Valentín Paniagua, Head of the Mission of Observers from
the Organization of American States (OAS), indicated that
these events have disturbed the electoral process and have
created a climate of uncertainty, insecurity and
intimidation. Meanwhile the Verification Mission of the
Peace Accords added to the demonstrations of concern for
the events and demanded respect for human rights.

Numerous national and international press organisations
have repeated their rejection and condemnation of the
violent attitude adopted by the government and condemn the
murder of reporter Ramírez, while raising awareness of the
urgent need to provide comprehensive guarantees regarding
the implementation of journalistic activity and guarantees
of the right to information in Guatemalan society.

It is for this reason that the government must provide a
quick, coherent and efficient response to investigate these
terrible incidents and bring those responsible to the
courts. Alfonso Portillo has special responsibility to
demonstrate or explain why the security forces did not
comply with their constitutional duty to preserve security
and equanimity in the cities.

In spite of the inherent risks, as journalists we will
continue engaging in this social labour, ready to defend
the right to freedom of thought and press, which is
fundamental for the existence of a democratic state.

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