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  • Journalists gather to demand an end to impunity and in memory of a slain colleague, Hector Ramirez, in Guatemala City, July 24, 2013.

    Journalists gather to demand an end to impunity and in memory of a slain colleague, Hector Ramirez, in Guatemala City, July 24, 2013. | Photo: EFE

Systemic impunity for human rights abuses in Guatemala means many crimes against journalists go unpunished.

A Guatemalan court has sentenced a man to 40 years in jail for the killing of a journalist last year, offering a glimpse of justice for crimes against press freedom in one of the most dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere for media workers.

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Byron Estuardo Felipe Morales was handed 40 years in jail Tuesday for the murder of television journalist Victor Hugo Valdes on June 7, 2016, in the city of Chiquimula, located over 100 miles east of Guatemala City.

Valdes was the founder and director of a television program on a local channel and was remembered fondly by members of a local journalists’ union, among whom he was well respected, Guatemala’s Prensa Libre reported. Trained as a physician, the TV host worked in media for some 30 years, according to local media.

The journalist was shot dead while exercising in the streets of Chiquimula with his grandson, authorities reported at the time.

Felipe Morales was arrested in relation to the crime about five weeks after Valdes was gunned down. Other suspects in the killing have not been captured.

According to Reporters Without Borders, killings of journalists in Guatemala makes the Central American country one of the most deadly places in the Western Hemisphere for press workers. Systemic impunity means many crimes against journalists go unpunished, fueling a cycle of abuses.

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