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Jan 19, 2018

Showdown at the Border in Guat Journalist’s Own Words

Still on Guatemala…a journalist Rigoberto Escobar Lopez who claims he was assaulted on Tuesday at the adjacency zone at the western border is taking his case to the Guatemalan Human Rights Office. Escobar told the Guatemalan media that he is pressing ahead with his complaint. The reporter says in an interview that he has been getting a lot of support from a number of journalist associations. We’ve obtained video that shows a Belize cop and two civilians confronting him. News Five’s Andrea Polanco tells us more.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

This is Rigoberto Escobar Lopez – he is the Guatemalan journalist who works with Prensa Libre and GuateVision who claims armed Belizean authorities assaulted him. He alleges that on Tuesday he was in the adjacency zone to document work for a report his media house is doing on the referendum. But his trip and Belizean authorities – not the report – made headlines across his media-house on Tuesday night. In an interview on Wednesday, he explains what he was doing.


Rigoberto Escobar Lopez

Rigoberto Escobar Lopez, Journalist [Translated]

“Yesterday I travelled to Melchor de Mencos, at the Adjacency Zone, to do report concerning the national referendum, as well as problems at the Adjacency Zone and the children from Peen that go to school in Belize. These issues are all related to the adjacency zone.”


According to Escobar-Lopez, he was in “no man’s land” when an armed police-man and two civilians approached him. The cell-phone video captures a part of the exchange between the journalist and the men. He says they told him that he was on Belizean soil – but he said he wasn’t. And from there things went south – he alleges that it got physical –he was grabbed by the neck and the struggle left him with abrasions on his arm.


Rigoberto Escobar Lopez [Translated]

“In the afternoon I was in the vicinity of the Free zone or “no man’s land”, located in front of the O.A.S. And a uniformed policeman came up to me, he was armed. He was with two civilians who supposedly are investigators from Belize. One of them, with surname Rodriguez, told me, ‘come here’ and I said, ‘you come here.’ When he approached me, he asked me who I was. I asked him why and then he said I could not take photos there. I asked him why and he said because this is Belizean territory, I said, ‘ok fine, thanks. I will go back to the Guatemalan side’ I was about six meters within the adjacency zone. I was by the customs Area, in front of the O.A.S. office, the area that is called ‘no man’s land’ And so on my way back, about 5 meters away from the Guatemalan side, one of them, whose surname is Rodriguez, grabbed me by my neck and wanted to take away my camera, pulling me towards the Belize side. This is so that he could charge me with the crime so illegal entry, no visa and no work permit. There was a struggle and he was trying to take away my camera, He grabbed my neck and so I grabbed his neck. When he saw that I was resisting, he continued struggling and inflicted an injury to my arm. As you can see here, this is the result of the struggle we had.”


The reporter says that he filed a formal complaint and he has been getting international support. And now he will take his alleged assault to the human rights office in his country.


Rigoberto Escobar Lopez [Translated]

“And so if they can do this to a journalist doing his job, imagine what they would do to the farmers who find themselves in that area, working to feed their families.  I have received a few phone calls from the special public prosecution’s office and other international Groups on behalf of the press. We also made contact with the Guatemalan Embassy in Belize who came to assist me. Yes, we will make an official complaint. We will also go to the Human Rights Office in Guatemala and see what happens.”


Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington confirmed that he received a copy of the report – and says that he regrets that incident happened. He chalks it up an over enthusiastic cop on the job.


Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“I think it really was done out of his overzealousness, it is not something that I would have urged him to do.  People have so many phones and people are taking photographs with phones all over the place.  I personally have no difficulty with people taking photographs of others.  I do know that the police seem to resent it when citizens take their photographs.  I don’t think that there is anything wrong in a citizen wanting to take a person’s photograph.  I’m of the view that that might not have been a very prudent and necessary action on the part of the police and I regret that it occurred.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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