Guatemala: One journalist shot dead, another threatened

RAN 13/13 – 26 March 2013

Sofia Menchu

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International protests the murder of Nuestro Diario journalist Jaime Napoleón Jarquín Duarte on 20 March 2013 as well as recent threats against El Periódico journalist Sofía Menchú. PEN calls on the authorities to investigate Jarquín Duarte’s murder and the threats made against Menchú, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

On 20 March 2013, Jaime Napoleón Jarquín Duarte (63), journalist for Nuestro Diario, a newspaper known for its coverage of crime and violence in Guatemala, was shot dead by unknown assailants. The journalist was reportedly playing cards on the street with friends in Cuidad Pedro Alvarado, Jutiapa department, when unidentified gunmen got out of a farming vehicle and opened fire, killing him and wounding two of his companions. Police have indicated that the attackers remain unidentified and the motive for Jarquin Duarte’s murder is unknown. Colleagues of the journalist confirmed that he had not reported receiving any threats prior to his death. He is the first journalist to be murdered in Guatemala since Otto Pérez Molina became president in January 2012.

Jarquín Duarte was a former professor who had joined Nuestro Diario three years previously. He was founder of the Guatemala Cooperative of Departmental Journalists (Cooperativa de Perdiodistas Departamentales de Guatemala, Coopedegua), as well as a committee to campaign for Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado to break away from the municipality of Moyuta and become a municipality in its own right. Jarquín Duarte was also a consultant for various political candidates vying for the local mayor’s position.

In another worrying development, Sofía Menchú, journalist for El Periódico, reported receiving threats after publishing an article at the beginning of March 2013 in which she suggested that a retired army captain who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for the assassination of Bishop Gerardi enjoys privileged treatment and “close relations” with the director of the prison service, the president and vice-president. Bishop Juan Gerardi was found beaten to death in the rectory where he lived on 26 April 1998, just two days after releasing a report documenting 55,000 human rights violations during Guatemala’s civil war, most of them committed by the army. Photographs published along with Menchú’s article showed the imprisoned captain’s partner with the president and vice-president.

On 8 March it was reported that Menchú was summoned to an informal meeting with a former cabinet member, who referred to her recent articles and told her that she should not have published them, adding that she should pray to God that nothing happens to her. During the meeting, a second man was reported to enter the room; Menchú was told that he was an associate of the imprisoned army captain and that he was there specifically to identify her.

In February 2013, Guatemala’s prisons chief was fired for having allowed the army captain convicted of killing Bishop Gerardi to leave Pavoncito penitentiary. The captain was arrested en route back to the prison. The incident gave rise to media speculation about the extent of his influence over prison officials and politicians.

Useful links

Please send appeals:

  • Protesting the murder of Nuestro Diario journalist Jaime Napoleón Jarquín Duarte, as well as the recent threats received by el Periódico journalist Sofía Menchú;
  • Calling on the Guatemalan authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into  Jarquín Duarte’s murder, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice;
  • Calling too for the threats against Menchú to be properly investigated.

Send your appeals to:

Attorney General and Head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office

Lic. Claudia Paz y Paz Bailey
Fiscal General de la República y Jefa del Ministerio Público
15 calle y 15 avenida zona 1
Edificio Gerona
Guatemala 01001, Guatemala
Tel: +502 2411 9191
Fax: +502 2411 9191

Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Estimada Sra. Fiscal General

Minister of the Interior

Lic. Hector Mauricio López Bonilla
Ministro de Gobernación
6ª Avenida 13-71, Zona 1,
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 2413 8658
Salutation: Dear Minister/Estimado Sr.Ministro

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Guatemala in your country. Details of some Guatemalan embassies around the world can be seen here:

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***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 25 May 2013***