Copyright 2004 Donna DeCesare
The most comprehensive coverage of Central America in years.
Award-winning radio to use as an educational and learning tool.
El Periódico publisher José Rubén Zamora

Journalist Ileana Alamilla, president of the Guatemalan Press Association

Radio Journalist Marielos Monzon has received numerous death threats. She has been awarded the Courage Award by the International Women's Media Foundation.

Segment 11:

Reporter: Maria Emilia Martin
Associates: Patricia Flynn/Marielos Monzon

In the past twenty years, the press in Central America has experienced something of a renaissance. Since the end of the civil wars, journalists, once afraid to criticize those who held power, have even been investigating official corruption. Yet like other democratic institutions in the region, the free press is still a fragile enterprise. And as reporters Maria Martin and Patricia Flynn found in Guatemala, journalism can still be a dangerous profession.

When Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora reported links between the current government and a corrupt mafia involved in narcotics trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, Zamora himself became a target of violence. This segment follows Zamora's case, in which his work has made him a target of government harassment for several years, and more recently (June 2003), of a brutal attack on him and his family. Our report uses his case to examine the challenges to a free press and the limits of investigative journalism in a society in which increasingly the mechanisms of democracy-- the judicial and legislative system, state-run media, and security systems-- answer to corrupt interests. It also looks at the cases of other journalists who have ben threatened in the exercise of their profession, as was the case with young radio journalist Marielos Monzon.

For more information about the issues raised in the segment Challenges To Free Expression In 21st Century Central America, see the following books and articles.
(Note: this is not intended as a complete list. Check back for more recommendations and an opportunity to make your own recommendations soon.)

Alisky, Marvin. The mass media in Central America.
St. Paul, University of Minnesota. 1955

Fox, Elizabeth. Voice of America and other media habits in Central America: A study of reception modes in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Communications Media Research Branch, Office of Research, U.S. Information Agency. 1993.

Ordonez, Jaime, editor; Marta Altolaguirre, et al. Periodismo, Derechos Humanos y Control del Poder Político en Centroamérica (Seminar).
San Jose, Costa Rica. 1993

Rockwell, Rick & Janus, Noreen. Media Power in Central America (History of Communication).
Urbana, University of Illinois Press. 2003
Challenging the notion of the media as a democratizing force, Media Power in Central America shows how the media are used to block democratic reforms in the region and outlines the difficulties of playing watchdog to rulers who use the media as a tool of power.

Sanford, Victoria. Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala.
Palgrave Macmillan. 2003

Committee To Protect Journalists
Features international news alerts and resources from non-partisan international organization of journalists dedicated to protection of freedom of the press

El Periódico
Website of the newspaper whose publisher is Jose Ruben Zamora

Todos los periódicos diarios de Guatemala
Website with access to many Guatemalan newspapers.

Website for Guatemala’s independent TV channel.

Reporters Without Borders
Report on the situation of the press in Guatemala during the administration of Alfonso Portillo

Produced by GraciasVida Media Center, the independent journalism resource for Latin America.

For more information, contact:
Producer Maria Martin email:
or telephone: 415.670.9717

Funded by
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

© Maria Martin

Photo at top left © Donna DeCesare