Sunday, November 24, 2002

El Periodico - Guatemala City, Guatemala

The day we arrived at the El Periodico compound in Guatemala City, editor José Rubén Zamora had just published a lead story that claimed that the Portillo government was benefiting financially as a direct result of the acceptance of funds from mafia activities, including trafficking in narcotics, kidnapping and extortion. The article had taken six years to research. It had taken the authorities a couple of hours to respond. Read more on Poynter Online.

We were there to help El Periodico build a sustainable web publishing business, but it became clear, following calls to the American embassy, that it might not be a good plan to stick around. A few months later and José Rubén Zamora was again feeling the heat. An armed gang of 12 forced its way into his home, blindfolded him, held a gun to his head, beat his children, and carried out a mock execution. Read more on BBC News Online.

That led to international calls for the Portillo government to back off independent media. Read more on CNN and also read more on Poynter Online. This, in turn, led to calls from the World Association of Newspaper (WAN) for the government of President Alfonso Portillo to ensure that the state of Guatemala provided an environment which enabled journalists to carry out their professional duties without fear of attack and intimidation. Read more on BBC News Online.

José Rubén Zamora and El Periodico survived. The Portillo government fell. El Periodico has a successful web publishing business.

Client: El Periodico
Media Development Organisation: MDLF