September 17, 2014 / 2:26 AM / 5 years ago

Guatemala government responds to news story before it is published

Guatemala's President Otto Perez (C) arrives with Defense Minister General Manuel Lopez (L) and Vice President Roxana Baldetti (R) at an earthquake-damaged zone in central San Pedro, in the San Marcos region in northwest Guatemala, July 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala’s government posted an online response to a newspaper article about the country’s vice president before it was published, provoking criticism the government was spying on the country’s media.

Pictures of the article, which linked a luxury property owned by Vice President Roxana Baldetti to businessmen who have benefited from government contracts, were put up on the government’s website, along with a written response.

“This is espionage that violates the confidentiality of the press and generates uncertainty and intimidation,” Frank La Rue, an ex-U.N. special freedom of expression investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Baldetti said she had been sent the story in an anonymous envelope and that she published a response because the newspaper, El Periodico, had not sought her version of events.

She said the property in question was bought by her family before she became vice president and that she had declared everything according to the law.

“The government...does not spy on the media,” she added in a tweet.

The article, which was published in El Periodico’s Tuesday print edition, was co-written by the paper’s founder, Jose Ruben Zamora, who said via the paper’s Twitter account that what the government did was illegal and immoral.

Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Ken Wills

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